Army chief says S. Thailand situation under control

Thai authorities have the overall situation under control in the violence-ridden Deep South, army chief Udomdej Sitabutr said Tuesday following a series of arson and bomb attacks earlier in the region.

Some insurgent groups try to stir up unrest whenever the government makes headway in restoring peace in the restive far South, said Udomdej, who is also the deputy defense minister.

Thailand’s Deep South, including three Muslim, ethnic-Malay dominated southern border provinces, Yala, Pattani, Narathiwat and four districts of Songkhla, has been plagued with separatist violence since January 2004.

On Monday, a series of arson and bomb attacks, as well as anti- government banners, were reported in dozens of areas in the aforementioned four provinces.

These incidents, involving no casualties, were defined by Thai authorities as attempts to discredit Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o- cha who visited Malaysia on Monday to discuss with his Malaysian counterpart Najib Razak about renewed peace talks with southern insurgents.

Such attempts had no significant impact, Udomdej said, adding that October recorded a year-on-year decline in the incidence of violence.

The situation in the South will improve even further after more development projects that cater to the needs of local people are introduced next year, said the army chief.

After returning from Malaysia, Prayut confirmed that Malaysia would continue to facilitate the peace negotiation between the Thai government and southern insurgents, and Najib had approved Gen. Aksara Kerdpol, chairman of the Thai army’s advisory panel, as the government’s new chief negotiator.

In December, Aksara will discuss preparations for a new round of talks with Malaysian authorities, and a date could then be set for the negotiation, National Security Council secretary-general Anusit Kunakorn reportedly said.