BANGKOK (AFP) – Thailand’s military-installed Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont said Wednesday he has tasked his southern army commander with developing a detailed amnesty proposal for Islamic militants.
Surayud said the regional commander would work out details of a plan to grant amnesty to militants who defect to the government side, in the latest effort to end three years of bloody unrest.
“The southern army commander initiated the amnesty plan. I have asked him to study it in detail and to submit his plan to the government,” Surayud told reporters.
Thailand announced the proposal late Tuesday during a visit by Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) chief Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu. The OIC is the world’s largest grouping of Muslim nations.
Surayud told Ihsanoglu that he would offer the amnesty in a bid to ease the violence along the southern border with Malaysia.
Major General Chamlong Khunsong, the southern army region chief of staff, said the army would hold public consultations on the amnesty.
“The army has to sound out the public reaction. This bill would not be universally applied, but only affect defectors so that they will be protected,” he told AFP.
Chamlong admitted the amnesty could be a tough sell if violence continued to rage in the region, where more than 2,100 have been killed in the past three years.
“Currently, the violence is not getting any better,” he added.
Thailand’s junta leader, General Sonthi Boonyaratglin, came out in support of the amnesty, reversing his earlier opposition to the proposal.
“I agree with the southern army commander’s proposal … to grant the amnesty as part of measures to reduce violence and lead to reconciliation,” he told reporters.
Security forces in the region are immune from prosecution under a state of emergency that has been in effect for nearly two years.
Even if an amnesty is extended to defectors, that may not keep them safe.
A 53-year-old Muslim man who defected to the government was shot dead at his home in Narathiwat province late Tuesday, police said.