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Yingluck promises to help remedy South problems as she offers condolences

KESINEE TANGKHIEO,
THORANIT PIRUNLAONG
THE NATION ON SUNDAY April 8, 2012 1:00 am
Yingluck promises to help remedy South problems as she offers condolences

Yongyuth insists there will be no chance of negotiating with insurgents as PM orders tighter security measures

Expressing sympathy for victims of the recent car bombing in the provinces of Yala and Songkhla, Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra yesterday also promised to remedy the situation and step up security in a bid to restore peace and public confidence.

Meanwhile, Deputy PM and Interior Minister Yongyuth Wichaidit admitted that Pol Colonel Thavee Sodsong, secretary-general of Southern Border Provinces Administrative Centre, had indeed spoken with representatives of the separatist movements. However, he insisted that the authorities would not negotiate with the separatists.

On her weekly television show, “Yingluck Government Meets the People”, the premier offered her condolences to those who had lost their loved ones and were affected by the car bombs in Yala and Songkhla’s Hat Yai district. She said the government would take care of the 400 or so people wounded by the attacks and compensate them at the same rate as others who are affected by the insurgency in the deep South.

In addition, she said, the authorities would boost security in public areas, deploy more police and military personnel and install more security cameras and link them up with police stations. Yingluck went on to say that she had also instructed provincial governors to urge businesses and other local agencies to link up their CCTV systems. She has also instructed the Transport Ministry to beef up security at public bus stops and airports, and said relevant officials were talking to business owners about the impact of the bombings. She added that the authorities would go ahead with boosting security, though it would not be so tight that it makes tourists feel uneasy.

The bombing at Hat Yai’s Lee Gardens Plaza Hotel on April 1 killed three people and wounded 371 others, while two car bombs in Yala’s Muang district on March 31 killed 11 and wounded about 200.

Meanwhile, national police chief Pol General Priewpan Damapong said the police would set up 46 checkpoints in Songkhla to prevent further incidents, and also create seven “safety zones” populated by Buddhists, where outsiders would be prohibited from parking their cars. If the safety zone measure works, it would also be implemented in the three southernmost provinces. Priewpan plans to visit the South next week to follow up on security measures.

CONFLICTING CLAIMS

Following suspicion that the car bombs might be a message that some hardcore Islamic militants were against the talks that Thavee allegedly had with representatives of separatist movements during his visit to Malaysia last month, Yongyuth said yesterday that there had been no negotiations.

Thavee, however, said that he was in Malaysia last month only to discuss work-permit issues for Thai workers, not to meet any separatist leaders.

As for a Democrat MP claiming on Thursday that former PM Thaksin Shinawatra had held talks with a separatist group in Malaysia and that the Pattani United Liberation Organisation (Pulo) website showed a picture of Thaksin and a Pulo leader hugging, Yongyuth said pictures could be doctored. According to the MP, Thaksin’s talks with the insurgents had failed, resulting in the car bombs.

General Yuthasak Sasiprapha, deputy PM in charge of national security, said yesterday that he was not aware of Thavee or Thaksin allegedly speaking to separatists and that there was no photo evidence as claimed by the Opposition. He confirmed that the government would never negotiate with insurgentsand consider separatist movements as organisations. He said that there were about six groups actively creating problems in the South, though Thailand would be unable to identify them if they continued getting support from a neighbouring country. As for intelligence reports that an attack might be carried out during the Songkran holidays, Yutthasak said the authorities would provide tight security, adding that the southern insurgency should not spill over to the capital.

In separate news, the Army held a training session yesterday for 160 volunteers at Sena Narong Army Camp in Songkhla’s Hat Yai district. The volunteer team was taught to identify and report anything that might be suspicious in 13 city zones to prevent a recurrence of violence. They were also given copies of the arrest warrants for key suspects and pictures of stolen vehicles that might be used in future car-bomb attacks.

A GLIMMER OF HOPE

Pattani Senator Anusart Suwanmongkol, in his capacity as spokesman for the Senate panel on the South, yesterday led other senators to the Lee Gardens Plaza Hotel to gather additional data and provide moral support to hotel executives.

The hotel is expected to resume services on May 1, even though four cars, including the Honda Civic allegedly used for the bombing, remain unclaimed.

As for Songkhla residents fearing that tourists would stay away, it was a nice surprise when some 20 buses carrying some 700 Malaysian tourists arrived yesterday for the weekend. Most of the tourists said they were not worried about what had happened and had confidence in the country’s security measures.

In a statement issued yesterday, the Pattani Islamic Committee and its allies offered condolences to the families of those killed and injured in the car bombings. They also called on all parties to find solutions for disputes, be they ideological or political, in order to restore peace.

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