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Prem joins the fight to tame rebels
Fresh effort to bring peace back to South

January 07, 2006.

Statesman and Privy Council chairman Gen Prem Tinsulanonda will today join together with public organisations in the restive far South to declare their intention to fight the insurgency in a bid to bring back peace to the region. The statesman, together with former deputy prime minister Gen Chavalit Yongchaiyudh and Defence Minister Gen Thammarak Isarangkura na Ayudhaya and 80 public organisations in Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat provinces, will announce their strategy to restore peace today.

The ceremony will be held in Pattani, one of the main targets of the insurgency, today and broadcast live on Channel 5.

The initiative has been well received by Islamic leaders and local people as Gen Prem is credited for his success in driving out communism. His administration issued the so-called Prime Minister's Office's No. 66/23, a policy putting political before military means to end the communist threat in the 1980s. Under the order, those who had joined the communist insurgents at the time, including students, were pardoned and integrated back into mainstream society.

A source said Gen Chavalit, who now heads the government's poverty eradication campaign and the Internal Security Operations Command (Isoc), is a coordinator for the ceremony.
Gen Chavalit has contacted more than 80 public organisations to join the event.

Gen Chavalit visited Pattani yesterday to check on preparations for the event at the auditorium of the provincial administrative organisation office, the venue for the ceremony. He stayed overnight in the province.

Gen Chavalit, who recently emerged from political retirement to take charge of the Isoc, wants to forge patriotism among people in the deep South.

The source said it would be the first time Gen Prem, a former army chief, had officially visited the deep South since violence flared up in the region on Jan 4, 2004. Over the past years, the statesman has accompanied Her Majesty the Queen on her annual retreat at Taksin Ratchanives Palace in Narathiwat.

Gen Prem, the source said, is highly respected and his presence in the region represents the monarchy. He has expressed grave concern over the southern security tension which has continued unabated despite government attempts to quell it.

He and his working group have studied the violence and worked out guidelines to end the problem, emphasising rebuilding peace. The source said Gen Prem's working group comprised experienced people who used to handle community relations work under the statesman and Gen Chavalit.

The source said the two generals had met three or four times to discuss measures to douse the southern fire before coming up with the idea of declaring an intention to fight the insurgency.
Gen Prem would lead a ceremony where participants would swear an oath to help restore peace to the troubled region.

Col Somkwan Saengpattaranet, spokesman of the Southern Border Provinces Peace-building Command, said he expected today's mass gathering in Pattani to attract more than 3,000 people.
Gen Thammarak and Gen Chavalit are to oversee the final preparations for the gathering. Gen Thammarak said he would create ''peace villages'' along the Thai-Malaysian border to filter out any insurgent sympathisers. The military offensive strategy against the insurgents would also be overhauled.

Waedueramae Mamingji, chairman of the Pattani Islamic Committee, said Gen Prem's role in easing the southern mayhem was long overdue. He was a highly experienced man who had successfully fought off communism and stopped southern separatist infiltration in the past.

''He's gentle and unassuming and is cut out for the peace-building task. He's also well-respected and with him leading the way, the situation in the deep South will take a turn for the better,'' he said..

Ref: Bangkok Post

Prem Tinsulanonda Center for International Education, Chiang Mai, Kingdom of Thailand