Army chief: prolonged southern violence not linked to military budget

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BANGKOK, Oct 31 – Thai army chief Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha on Wednesday dismissed allegations the the southern insurgency is continuing unabated because the army wants a large military budget.

The army chief said no one benefits from the loss of the lives of others, and that the Bt3-4 billion budget allocated for security operations in the South is not worth the loss of life.

Gen Prayuth said he has already invited journalists who criticised army operations to discuss creating better understanding on the situation in the southern border provinces after their groundless articles accused the army of failing to solve the problem and want to prolong the violence there in order to get large budgets.

More than 5,000 victims–local residents, security forces, Buddhist monks and Muslim religious leaders, as well as insurgents–have been killed since violence erupted in the restive southern provinces of Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat in 2004.

Regarding policy to resolve far South problems after Gen Yuthasak Sasiprapa, who oversaw national security was removed from the deputy prime ministerial post, the army chief said it depends on how the government selects Gen Yuthasak’s successor.

He said currently the Internal Security operations Command (ISOC) and the Southern Border Provinces Administration Centre (SBPAC) are the main agencies to implement government policies in the region.

As Gen Yuthasak had also chaired the newly-established Committee to Mobilise Policy and Strategy to Solve Problems in the Southern Border Provinces, Gen Prayuth said as there is no chairperson during this period, the prime minister can convene a meeting of agencies or appoint any deputy premier to chair the meeting.

‘As the committee cannot operate yet, the ISOC and SBPAC must work more and cooperate with 17 ministries,” the army chief stated.