By The Nation
Fourth Army Region chief Lt-General Piyawat Nakwanich’s announcement yesterday prompted cheers and clapping from a crowd of 500 villagers who had gathered at Wat Leenanont to object to the idea, claiming it could further damage trust.
Piyawat had initially planned to explain the project to some 2,000 residents in three villages – Chulabhorn Pattana 12, Rak Tham and Leenanont – close to the 600 rai (96 hectares) of land that would be used for residences and farmland for 105 former separatists.
The separatists returned from Malaysia months ago and reported to the Army’s “Bring People Home” project, which is aimed at helping former insurgents reintegrate into Thai society.
The Army’s recent announcement of the plan drew widespread local opposition and concern, including from Network of Buddhists for Peace president Rakchat Suwan, who urged the plan be suspended and the Army listen to the opponents.
The villagers have argued that the plan would undermine trust building and that former insurgents could cause future problems.
It also led to a 500-strong demonstration at the Chulabhorn Army Camp on May 1 where a joint statement from three villages opposing the plan was read.
According to Fourth Army Region deputy chief Maj-General Wanlop Thitikul, the “Bring People Home” project would help two groups of former insurgents who had surrendered to cooperate with Thai authorities and had no outstanding warrants.
The amnesty scheme has so far led to the repatriation of about 100 former members of insurgent groups who had fled Thailand to avoid prosecution 30 years ago and nearly 300 people who were living in the South and involved in the unrest.