The Jan 21 motorcycle bomb at a Yala market killed three people and spurred immediate peace rallies, including the one above at the bombed market. (Post Today photo)
YALA: At least 2,000 former members of the Pattani United Liberation Organisation (Pulo) and Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN) who fled the country to avoid prosecution for attacks in the deep South have shown interest in joining the Fourth Army Region’s “Bring People Home” project.
The development was revealed Thursday by a 62-year-old former Pulo member, who claimed to represent a group whose members are taking refuge in Malaysia, Brunei and several Scandinavian countries and the Middle East.
The ex-Pulo member, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the insurgents have given up their armed struggle and are ready to join the state’s project. Of the 2,000, about 800 are hiding in Malaysia, he said.
The project is part of peace-building efforts by the authorities, who are encouraging insurgents to lay down their weapons and surrender. They have also urged parents of insurgents to talk to their children and turn themselves in.
“We and our children do not have future if we remain in Malaysia or in other foreign countries. We want the kingdom to return Thai citizenship to us so that we will have access to the wide range of welfare benefits that a Thai citizen enjoys,” he said. This person is one of four ex-members of Pulo and BRN who have contacted Lt Gen Piyawat Nakwanich, commander of the Fourth Army Region, to help bring the rebels home.
The members said they asked the authorities to guarantee they will not be detained and prosecuted for the crimes they had committed when they decide to return to the kingdom. Moreover, they wanted the government to restore their Thai citizenship.
A 35-year-old man, who claimed to be a former BRN member, said: “I decided to come back home because I believe the Thai state is sincere in giving full rights to Muslims, who can perform religious ceremonies and services,” he said.
However, he said the BRN representatives, who had participated in the peace talks, were not “the right people” as they do not hold any decision-making powers. He instead wanted the right people to join the talks.
Apart from the four, Lt Gen Piyawat said 161 ex-militants have joined the project since the beginning of the year.