2,000 in southern Thailand peace march
Business operators joined around 2,000 people from all walks of life in a march for peace as violence continued in the deep South, and intelligence reports warned of a new flare-up in the region and possibly in Bangkok in the coming weeks. The demonstrators called on the state to provide more arms and communications devices, and funds so communities can strengthen and defend themselves.

Made up of people in the hotel and production industries, community and labour representatives, the demonstrators marched from the Yala municipality to the provincial centre to submit their proposals to Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont through provincial governor Thira Mintrasakdi. Municipality mayor Pongsak Yingchoncharoen led the demonstration. He said the violence showed no sign of abating despite efforts by the government. The continuing attacks damaged the local economy and threatened the lives of people, he added .

The demonstrators, mainly wearing yellow T-shirts to show their loyalty to the King, also called for the tenure of village and tambon chiefs in the troubled provinces to be extended from five to 10 years.

The march for peace coincided with intelligence reports about a large shipment of explosive materials being transported by boat from a neighbouring country. The reports said an estimated 20 people from the insurgents' "united front" were posted to receive the shipment which was being ferried up the Bang Nara stream in Cho Ai-rong district of Narathiwat. From there, the plan called for the explosives to be carried into target areas by motorcycle. A man identified as Anwar Mahama, suspected to be a hired gunman from Muang district of Narathiwat, was said to have organised planning sessions at his home.

In the wake of these reported movements, security units in four districts of Narathiwat _ Ra-ngae, Sungai Padee, Sungai Golok and Muang _ had been instructed to raise their guard from Feb 25 on, sources said. Moreover, intelligence reports said a group of about 10 rebels from the South had infiltrated Bangkok. This group was believed to be preparing to launch a major attack in Bangkok from March 13-15.

The alert called special attention to March 13, the anniversary of the BRN (Barisan Revolusi Nasional Melayu Pattani), and March 14, a day of prayers. The insurgents, said the sources, planned to plant explosives in strategic places in Bangkok and nearby provinces. In Bangkok, Victory Monument was a target. Others were similar to those hit in the Dec 31 bombings, the sources added.

Amid continuing violence in the deep South, and warnings of more, social thinker Prawase Wasi proposed the use of police and military commando units to beef up existing forces. In an article entitled The Prime Minister and Strategies to Build Unity in the in the Deep South, Dr Prawase said the commandos should be deployed as police and soldiers posted in the deep South were not enough to curb the unrest. Dr Prawase also suggested that young men aged between 18-25 be organised in an unarmed peace corps.

The so-called santisena units would recruit local youth in Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat provinces so as to prevent them from being drawn into insurgent networks, he added. Dr Prawase also proposed the establishment of a large special administrative zone empowered to manage the economy, education, society, communications and residents' safety in ways consistent with the local culture.
Posted by: ryuge 2007-02-27