Guns given to deep south residents for self-defence: Army

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PATTANI, Nov 7 — In an attempt to clear up any misunderstanding among the public, an army spokesman said today that the 2,700 military grade assault rifles given by the government to residents of Thailand’s southern border provinces are meant for defending themselves and their communities from attacks by insurgents operating in the area.

Col Pramote Prom-in, spokesman of the Internal Security Operations Command Region 4 Forward Command, said the news which appeared in both local and foreign media had caused “anxieties and misunderstandings” among the people.

Stressing that the government wants to resolve the ongoing bloody violence in the deep south through peaceful means and under the law which offers equality, justice and respect of humanitarian values, said Col Pramote.

The government wants to see both the civilian force and the public to play a role in overseeing the area, build a strong community in which they could defend themselves and their communities and “not to fight against the troublemakers.”

The government is now in the second phase of solving the problems prevailing in the deep South, said Col Pramote. This operation began in 2011.

Village defence volunteers and paramilitary defence volunteers have been trained to protect themselves and their communities and to also inform concerned authorities of any crisis in time.

Col Pramote elaborated further that the rifles given by the Interior Ministry to the local community are meant for the people to protect themselves and “no more new guns are handed to paramilitary defence volunteers” operating in the area.

To date, more than 5,000 people have died while many others have been wounded in incidents which resumed beginning January 2004.

Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha has said he would visit the three violence-plagued southern provinces — Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat — but has not yet fixed the date.