Thursday, March 15, 2012

Freeze sought on 'militant land' Farmers forced to sell property on the cheap

Authorities in Narathiwat yesterday sought a freeze on about 1,400 rai of land on suspicion it is linked to drug trafficking rings and the insurgency in the troubled province.Provincial police chief Chote Chawalwiwat said several properties are thought to be linked to drugs rings and insurgency groups.He said drug traffickers were in league with militants in whipping up a climate of fear to grab land.Rubber plantation owners were singled out for attacks and the atmosphere of fear was said to have forced land owners into selling their property at low prices.Traffickers and militants then used the properties as hideouts.

The provincial police yesterday sought a freeze on one 400-rai plot of land and were gathering evidence to put a freeze on several other properties amounting to about 1,400 rai in total, the police chief said.
Pol Maj Gen Chote said he had instructed Pol Lt Col Preecha Kimkliang, head of the provincial task force, to ask land officials to seize the 400-rai plot in tambon Tohdeng in Sungai Padi district.The plot, worth 10 million baht, is owned by Wae-useng Wae-yu-soh, 56, who runs a private religious school in Narathiwat's Cho Airong district.Police found the property in question was linked to a drug trafficking gang led by Yusaree Pohda-oh, who was recently arrested.Supreme Commander Thanasak Patimakorn said yesterday links between criminal gangs and insurgents in the far South were to be expected.He said the volatile situation throws up shared interests between insurgents and illicit rings."It is quite normal to see groups of people with shared interests operating in a trouble-plagued area," he said.He said authorities were doing their best to counter illegal activities ranging from the drug trade to oil smuggling.

National police chief Priewpan Damapong said efforts were under way to undermine collaboration between drug rings and militants but he declined to discuss details."We will get to it in a couple of days. It remains a secret, right now," he said.Deputy Prime Minister Yutthasak Sasiprapa said the government's approach to dealing with the insurgency seemed to bearing fruit.He said there are signs the Barisan Revolusi Nasional might be seeking talks with the government."But I wouldn't call it negotiations. The government doesn't negotiate with insurgents, or we would be legitimising their organisation," he said. He said Thawee Sodsong, secretary-general of the Southern Border Provinces Administration Centre, would be sent to hear what the separatist group has to say.

Gen Yutthasak also rejected a proposal seeking to set up a special administrative zone called Pattani Maha Nakhon.He said the National Security Council was asked to study the proposal in detail but it did not mean the government would go ahead with it.Gen Yutthasak, along with army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha, yesterday paid a visit to the far South. They called in at Sirindhorn camp in Pattani and were briefed on the situation in the region.Gen Prayuth yesterday rejected a call for a withdrawal of all troops from the deep South, saying local authorities were not ready to take over security."Some people asked me if it is time to hand over the task to local officers. I'd say troops are struggling to get it under control," he said.

Gen Prayuth said it was a misconception that a troop pull-out or the lifting of state of emergency would ease tensions. He said the militants' aim was to involve the international community in the issue.
Drugs and other illegal activities were undermining security operations but authorities were intensifying efforts. "The insurgents are weakening but they are not quitting. They continue to seek sympathisers _ those who are mistreated or even drug traffickers."Meanwhile, Democrat MP for Narathiwat Surachet Wae-ahsae yesterday called for limited enforcement of the state of emergency.He said districts free of violence should be spared to restore trust and confidence in security and human rights.Areas where Mr Surachet said the state of emergency should be revoked include Yala's Betong and Kabang districts, Narathiwat's Sukhirin, Wang and Sungai Kolok districts and Pattani's Mae Kaen district.