The collapse also sent a large number of pedestrians and motorcyclists into the water, but there were no casualties. The Bicentenary Bridge, 20 metres above the water, has been regularly used. The bridge is believed to have collapsed after the slings broke.
PHUKET: National Security Council Secretary-General Lt Gen Paradorn Pattanatabut went into a damage-control mode yesterday after Hasan Taib, the self-proclaimed “liaison” officer of the Barisan Revolusi Nasional-Coordinate (BRN-C) made public a list of demands that could derail the recently started talks on peace in the far South.
Gen Paradon said he would raise the issues at today’s dialogue with the so-called BRN-C representatives. However, the NSC chief went on the record to dismiss the demand that the Malaysian government be given the role of “mediator”, as opposed to “facilitator” for the peace process.
He was just as dismissive of Hasan’s demand for the role of outsiders – Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), Asean members, or foreign non-government organisations (NGOs) – being part of the dialogue process on the grounds that the conflict in the Muslim-majority southernmost provinces is an internal matter.
Hasan and his associates had the right to go public with these demands, he said. They include the release of all prisoners held on charges related to the ongoing insurgency, dropping all charges against suspected separatist militants, and recognising that BRN is not a “separatist” but a “liberation” movement.
Gen Paradon tried hard to calm concern that the demands may jeopardise the talks because, according to Human Rights Watch’s Sunai Phasuk, Hasan’s demands effectively “derail the terms of reference that Thailand put in place when they signed the agreement to talk on February 28, 2013.”
“Don’t worry about these five demands. Everything has to be under the Constitution,” said Gen Paradon.
“It’s a good thing that they went online to make their demands because now we know what they want. And we are prepared to listen,” he said.
Gen Paradon left last night for Kuala Lumpur for today’s meeting, the second round since the historic February 28 peace agreement. He said he would raise these issues with Hasan’s camp at the meeting.
Speaking to reporters yesterday, Gen Paradon dodged a question about the demand to drop charges against suspected militants, saying a number of arrest warrants were made out for suspects who did not show up to meet officials to clear their name.
“Officials have no choice but to make out the warrants because they did not show up to meet the authorities when asked to do so. These are the things we have to look into and reconsider,” Gen Paradon said.
In the statement posted on YouTube yesterday, Hasan vowed to fight on against the Thai government who he referred to as “Siamese colonialists” until the area is liberated and added that all residents of Patani, the Malays’ historical homeland that is now part of Thailand’s southernmost provinces, will be treated justly and equally regardless of whether they are “Malay, Chinese or Siamese”.
Sources in the longstanding separatist movements, including BRN Coordinate members not affiliated with Hasan’s camp, told The Nation that the video was Hasan’s “exit strategy” from the peace process because he knew he would be unable to influence the current generation of separatist militants on the ground.
It was a way for him to “save face” and “redeem” himself, they said.
Members of these long-standing separatist movements accused Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur of luring Hasan into a peace process to serve their political aims.
For Malaysia, being seen as a mediator would attract votes at the upcoming general election. And for Bangkok, it was a way to “whitewash” the de facto leader of the ruling Pheu Thai Party, Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in a 2006 coup on allegations that, among other things, he mishandled the conflict in the South.
They pointed out that Bangkok had never asked Hasan to verify that he has “command-and-control” of militants on the ground.
Since the meeting on February 28, Thai delegates and Hasan’s team have met once. The next meeting is scheduled to take place today, also in Kuala Lumpur.
Hasan’s video was released on the eve of April 28, anniversary of the Krue Se Mosque stand-off between security forces and nearly 40 lightly armed insurgents who fortified themselves inside the historic mosque as they engaged in a lengthy gunfight until they were overpowered and killed.
On April 28, 2004, well over 100 young Malay Muslim militants simultaneously attacked 10 police outposts and one station in the far South with little more than machetes.
Survivors said they were members of a militant cell led by Ismail Yaralong, also known as Ustaz Soh, who inspired them to take up a suicidal mission.
Ustaz Soh led them to believe that they were invincible through his mystical-leaning teaching. All the dead insurgents on that day were buried as martyrs in line with Islamic tradition.
Tawee Sodsong, director of the Southern Border Provinces Adminstrative Centre, said he thought Taib’s clip on YouTube was intended as a direct message to communicate with insurgents to slow down the violence.
The message also showed that he was willing to take part in the peace dialogue, not against his will at the request of Malaysian authorities, as speculated by sceptics. He did not elaborate on the Malaysian authorities’ part.
PHUKET: A group of academics and NGOs yesterday called for the government to scrap its national strategy for water and flood management, saying it would drain the state budget, wash out local people’s lives and open the valves to massive corruption.
“The plan to borrow Bt350 billion for water management would cause severe damage to the country,” the group said in a statement.
The master plan of the Office of the National Water and Flood Management Policy should be replaced by the Chao Phraya basin management plan proposed by the Japan International Cooperation Agency, which would save some 70 per cent of the cost.
The terms of reference for the projects under the master plan were riddled with loopholes that could lead to a flood of graft, said the statement presented by Sasin Chalermlarp, secretary-general of the Sueb Nakhasathien Foundation.
The foundation, together with a network of academics, the Foundation for Integrated Water Management, ThaiFlood.com and Rangsit University held a seminar on “exposing corruption in the plan to expropriate land under the Bt350 billion + Bt200 billion worth of water management projects”.
The statement raised six suspicious points:
- The master plan lacked public participation, an environment impact assessment and a health impact assessment;
- The nine operating modules l
— Phuket Gazette Editors