A security officer wraps the recovered bodies of a couple who were brutally murdered by separatists in Songkhla to get their pickup truck and rig it as a car bomb. (Photo by Assawin Pakkawan)
A network of Buddhists in the far South has called for a relaxation of special security laws in the insurgency-plagued region following an agreement between the government and insurgent groups to create safety zones.
The call comes after Mara Patani, an umbrella organisation of insurgent groups in the deep South, which held talks with Thai negotiators in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on Tuesday, said both sides had agreed to set up safety zones in five districts in the three southernmost provinces.
The deal covers one district in Pattani, two in Yala and two districts in Narathiwat, the group said without naming the districts.
It remains unclear whether they are the same districts earlier proposed as safety zones by Thai authorities. These were Sungai Kolok and Cho Airong districts in Narathiwat, Bannang Sata and Raman districts in Yala, as well as Sai Buri district in Pattani.
Rukchart Suwan, head of the Buddhist Network for Peace, said it is important to look at the chosen areas as to whether they are rife with violence and both sides can control their forces.
Civil groups would also have to go into these areas to create peace, he said, adding they could tell locals that their safety zone would mean violence will end.
“The safety zones are not only about trying to make them safe, but should include the prospect of development,” Mr Ruckchart said.
He said the safety zones remain at risk of violence, adding there are still insurgent groups who do not favour talks.
“Regarding special laws which have been used in these areas, they should be relaxed as well,” said Mr Ruckchart.
Deputy Defence Minister Gen Udomdej Sitabutr said the peace talks on Tuesday went well and expressed confidence that the southern situation will improve.
Referring to a 4th Army Region peace-building project, which encourages insurgents to lay down their arms and join its “Bring People Home” initiative, Gen Udomdej said more than 4,000 people had turned themselves in and more were expected to do so.
The peace talks in Malaysia took place on the same day officials discovered a bomb-rigged pickup truck left close to a border patrol police base in tambon Pak-bang of Songkhla’s Thepha district.
Two gas cylinders packed with explosives and weighing 80kg were found in the vehicle.
The bodies of a couple who owned the vehicle were found dumped in the Thepha River under Ruam Chai Phak Bridge in tambon Tha Muang of Thepha district Wednesday.
They were identified as Kartpon Puwawimon, 51, and his wife Thitapa, 41, from Thepha district.
The eyes of the victims were taped and their arms tied behind their back, police said.
Their injuries suggested the couple had been bludgeoned to death.
According to police, the couple were killed in a rubber plantation in tambon Tha Muang and their bodies later dumped from the bridge.
Police are in the process of reviewing CCTV footage from cameras along routes linking the crime scenes.
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