King concerned over security of citizens in deep South
His Majesty the King has expressed concern for the security of people in the southern border provinces and instructed the Army to step up protection, the southern Army chief said.
Fourth Army Area Commander Lt-General Piyawat Nakwanit said that according to his assessment, the security situation had seen improvement this year.
“His Majesty is concerned for the people. The King emphasised that we must ensure security for the local people and we are soldiers of the King. We are ready to take care of the people in all situations,” Piyawat said.
He said his assessment of the improved situation was not based on statistics of number of violent attacks or killings related to the ongoing insurgency. He said he based his assumption on the fact that many shops, resorts and petrol stations had come up along the roads from Songkhla’s Hat Yai district to Yala’s Betong district.
The southern Army chief added that the number of tourists visiting the southern border provinces rose from 2 million in 2016 to 4.4 million this year and many hotels were all booked during weekends.
Piyawat said he was upbeat the southern Army was capable of maintaining security in the deep South, as the Army had increased the number of local security forces in line with the policy of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha.
Piyawat said the prime minister wanted the local people to protect themselves so that troops could return to the barracks.
Along with maintaining security, the government is also trying to improve the situation with economic measures, including the economic triangle project, Piyawat added.
He said many groups of militants wanted to turn themselves in and join the programme but they still feared the influence of umbrella groups and were reluctant to lay down arms.
He said those who have laid down arms would be well protected by the Army.
The southern Army chief added that he believed some 10 local politicians were behind violent attacks in the deep South but the Army has talked to them and reached an understanding.
“Next year, the situation in the deep South will be even better,” Piyawat said.
“I have been in charge of the situation for a year and I think I have done a good job,” he said.
He added his troops have already secured 13 districts as safety zones with zero violence.