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Statesman and Privy Council chairman Gen Prem Tinsulanonda greets members of the three southern most provinces' provincial Islamic committees and other leading figures in a ceremony in Pattani to take a vow to create peace in the far South.

Prem: Heed my words on peace
Former prime minister calls for unity at Pattani ceremony, as five killed in ongoing violence

January 08, 2006.

Statesman and Privy Council chairman Gen Prem Tinsulanonda yesterday urged the government to heed his message and turn it into action in an attempt to put an end to violence in the deep South. The former prime minister told about 2,000 representatives from 93 civic groups at the Provincial Administration Organisation that the key to success in tackling problems in the restive South was the continued implementation of a policy based on ''understanding and development''. All agencies concerned were advised to focus on justice, virtues, morals and freedom of thought and expression in order to win the people's trust.

He said he was delighted to see many people gather in a bid to find ways to fight the insurgency and pledge to bring peace back to the deep South and called on Thais to give their moral support to people in the South and hope for peace there.

''I'm a southern native. Violence in the three southern border provinces is not a big or complicated problem but a matter of antipathy, disgrace, injustice and misunderstanding between the instigators and us,'' said Gen Prem, who was born in Songkhla, a province neighbouring Pattani.

He urged Muslims, particularly those in Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat to apply the virtues of Islam for the benefit of the country and try to ensure that greater understanding about religious principles be spread among the people, including extremists. The statesman also led the participants in pledging to create peace in the far South.

''Declaring our will today is the only and final way to bring peace back to the South. I hope we can make it. If not, we will reach a dead end. Hopefully, it will not end up like that. I hope love and understanding will lead the way in bringing peace back,'' Gen Prem said.

He said the declaration and his advice ''must be heard'' by the government. ''On hearing them, the government should translate this into action because the government always states that it wants peace to return to the South as soon as possible,'' he said.

He also explained that Their Majesties the King and Queen had deep concerns for all Thais and wanted those involved to reconcile and cooperate.

Gen Chavalit Yongchaiyudh, the prime minister's chief adviser who was responsible for organising yesterday's ceremony, said that Gen Prem had always been concerned about the problems in the deep South and hoped for peace there. ''This is a proactive political strategy because we need to have political and peaceful strategies leading military ones,'' he said.

During the ceremony, Abdullahman Abdulsomat, chairman of the coordinating centre for the deep South's provincial Islamic committees, and Mahama Aneemuna, chairman of the civic group for peace in the far South, led all the participants in taking an oath.

''All of us are willing to cooperate in every way to create peace in the three southern border provinces urgently,'' he said and joined the others in signing a declaration before presenting it to Gen Prem.

Meanwhile, violence in the South continued. Two border patrol police were shot dead at a busy weekend market in Yala by gunmen who escaped on a motorcycle after throwing spikes and fake bombs on the road as they left. Later, in Yala's Muang district, four attackers armed with pistols opened fire on a grocery store in Withoon Uthit 12 road, killing Sorayuth Singthong, 24, and Imron Jehlae, 25, and injuring three others who were later taken to Yala Hospital.

In Pattani's Muang district, village defence volunteer Toi Lanwong was killed by a gunman while driving to a pig farm. Leaflets were left behind by the attackers vowing to kill innocent people.
In a separate attack in the same district, insurgents armed with .38-calibre pistols opened fire on a family of three Burmese, including a one-year-old infant. The three were said to be in critical condition

Ref: Bangkok Post

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