Foreign Minister confident Islamic delegation will better understand South


BANGKOK, May 8 – Thai Foreign Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul said Tuesday that the visit to Thailand’s southernmost provinces by high-level representatives of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) will help it better understand Thailand’s stance and policy in dealing with problems in its southern border region.

High-level representatives of the OIC led by Ambassador Sayed Kassem El-Masry, the OIC secretary general’s adviser, are officially visiting Thailand May 7-13 for current information on the country’s Muslim majority southern border region as well as the government’s efforts and policy to develop the region.

Mr Surapong told reporters after meeting with the OIC delegation that he explained Thailand’s approach in solving problems in the southern border provinces according to His Majesty King Bhumibol’s “Understanding, Access and Development” strategies.

The government approved a budget of more than US$70 million to compensate victims affected by the southern violence, he said.

The minister said that Mr El-Masry visited Thailand in 2005 and believed the OIC delegation leader will understand that the problems in the South did not originate from religious conflict.

After this visit for firsthand information, the upcoming OIC meeting is expected to view Thailand in a more positive light, he said.

The visit will provide the OIC delegation with the opportunity to be updated on the efforts of the Thai government to address the root causes of the situation through promotion of economic and social development.

Mr Surapong said the OIC delegates expressed interest in the Emergency Decree enforcement in the southern provinces and that he told them the government gradually revoked the special law in some areas and replaced it with the Internal Security Act.

The government could not specify when the emergency decree would be totally revoked as it depends on the security situation in each area.

The OIC representatives and Thailand’s foreign ministry are scheduled to issue a joint statement at 5pm on Thursday on the result of the visit,  Mr Surapong said.

The delegation is scheduled to meet with the Secretary-General of the National Security Council Pol Gen Wichean Potephosree before travelling to Songkhla’s Hat Yai  and then the three southern border provinces of Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat.

They will meet the secretary-general of the Southern Border Provinces Administrative Centre (SBPAC) and the Region 4 army commander and exchange views with local authorities to gain a better understanding of the situation. The delegation will also consult with the Thai Muslim community and academics.