BANGKOK, Feb 14 – School operators in Thailand’s three southernmost provinces are now authorised to suspend teaching and request additional security from the authorities for their own safety, a senior cabinet member said today.
The statement by Deputy Prime Minister/Education Minister Phongthep Thepkanchana came on the heels of an attack on government forces at a marine base in Narathiwat’s Bacho district early Wednesday morning in which 16 militants were killed.
Government authorities in the far South, especially in Narathiwat, Yala, Pattani and some districts of Songkhla, have since been on special alert for possible retaliation by militants.
Mr Pongthep said all related agencies have beefed up their security measures while teachers are empowered to temporarily close their schools for safety reasons and those in high-risk areas can seek additional protection from government forces.
Regarding a widely-criticised, proposed assistance to families of the dead insurgents, the deputy prime minister said, would be extended on humanitarian grounds and not limited to financial aid.
If a militant is the head of a family and the family members have never been involved in any insurgency activity or offences, they may be entitled to state assistance, he said.
Lertkiat Wongphopan, deputy director general of the Southern Border Provinces Administrative Centre, said there has been no discussion so far on assistance to the late militants’ families.
He ruled out reports that the militants’ families will be granted financial aid of Bt7.5 million – the same amount as given to families of those who died in Bangkok’s political upheaval in 2010.
He said he was assigned to meet with families of the 16 slain insurgents to boost their morale and found that some might need assistance on occupational training but a final decision has yet to be made.