Wednesday April 25, 11:47 PM
BANGKOK (AFP) – Thailand’s army-backed government said Wednesday it will reinforce troops and police in the country’s Muslim-majority patani in a bid to rein in a long-running insurgency.”The army commander (General Sonthi Boonyaratglin) told me we need to reinforce the military in order to better protect innocent lives and property,” Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont told reporters.
He said the government would also send 1,000 extra police officers to the region, as the force was currently understaffed.
Some 30,000 troops are stationed in three restive provinces along the southern border with Malaysia, but Surayud, a former general, declined to say how many more will be deployed.
The English-daily Bangkok Post said Wednesday the army would send an extra 15,000 soldiers to the south.
Major General Chamlong Khunsong, southern army chief of staff, said the new troops would be deployed on major highways — a common site of insurgent attacks — and in other high risk areas such as the jungle.
He said the southern army was currently drawing up a plan for the deployment of fresh troops in the region, and would soon submit their proposal stating how many more soldiers were needed.
“Both the prime minister and the army chief support the plan,” he told AFP.
More than 2,100 people have been killed in three years of unrest in the southern provinces of Yala, Narathiwat and Pattani on the border with Malaysia.
Surayud’s government, which came to power after a Sonthi led coup in September, launched a series of peace efforts, including an apology to Muslims over past abuses, in a bid to quell the insurgency.
But violence has escalated in the past six months with near-daily bombing and shooting attacks.
In the latest unrest a Buddhist man was shot dead by suspected rebels in a drive-by shooting Wednesday in Pattani.
The three troubled provinces were once an independance sultanate, until the region was annexed by mainly Buddhist Thailand a century ago. Separatist unrest has erupted periodically ever since