Abhisit warns South conflict is escalating

Compensation scheme ‘may make things worse’

Democrat leader Abhisit Vejjajiva

Democrat leader Abhisit Vejjajiva has warned of an escalation in the southern insurgency if the government does not follow through with its promise to compensate victims of the violence.

Mr Abhisit said yesterday that while a government-appointed committee has agreed to pay up to 7.5 million baht in compensation for each case of death in the far South during the past eight years, the cabinet has not made a resolution on the issue yet.

He added that any inconsistency will create confusion.

Mr Abhisit questioned the scope of the compensation, claiming many people would wrongly think they were also eligible for compensation.

He cited as examples relatives of victims of the May 1992 crackdown or people whose property was damaged, and victims of extra-judicial killings during the past drug wars.

He said a compensation scheme that discriminates between victims would worsen conflicts in the South.

Mr Abhisit also urged the government to confirm if it could afford the overall compensation. He said compensation for about 5,000 cases would cost the government 30-40 billion baht.

More importantly, he pointed out the comptroller-general admitted there was no law to support the payments.

”I would like the government to think seriously. Any decision-making must be done carefully and based on the principle that it is explicable to the public. If a measure is approved only to relax the atmosphere, it will turn out to be a problem,” Mr Abhisit said.

Meanwhile, Pol Col Thawee Sodsong, secretary-general of the Southern Border Provinces Administration Centre, said compensation would go to victims of state abuse dating back to January 2004, and people can have representatives take part in calculating the compensation.

The payments would be capped at 7.5 million baht for each death. The amount will be lower for other less serious cases and anyone with a criminal record would not be eligible for compensation, he said.

Also yesterday, the government appointed more members to the southern violence reparation committee, which is headed by Justice Minister Pracha Promnok.

Deputy Prime Minister Yongyuth Wichaidit was appointed as adviser to the committee, deputy spokesman Anusorn Iamsa-ad said.

Education Minister Suchart Thada-Thamrongvech, Public Health Minister Witthaya Buranasiri and Social Development and Human Security Minister Santi Prompat were named as vice-chairmen. The appointments were effective from Friday.

Meanwhile, a bomb buried in the road exploded and injured 10 paramilitary rangers in Bannang Sata district of Yala province.

The blast occurred at 1.30pm yesterday. The device was in a 15kg gas cylinder and was detonated on Ban Tuera-Ngo Kapo Road when the rangers were leaving their base in Ban Tuera village to go on patrol. The attack occurred about 1km from their base and the explosion tore their pickup in half.

Four of the rangers were seriously wounded and transferred from Bannang Sata Hospital to Yala Hospital.

Meanwhile, a report released by the Pattani campus of the Prince of Songkla University has found violence in the far South has restricted agricultural and industrial growth in the region and the economy now depends on government spending.

The government has spent 63 billion baht on development projects in the region, but the benefits are centred on people close to community leaders, the report said.

Source http://www.bangkokpost.com/news/security/279687/abhisit-warns-south-conflict-is-escalating

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