Prayuth backs curfew for the South

PATTANI : Army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha has backed Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yubamrung's proposal for a curfew in violence-prone areas in the South.

A curfew would assist security as it would help authorities screen out innocent people from insurgents, he said before leaving for an official visit to Australia.

Gen Prayuth played down fears of the effect on locals, saying it would not mean a total ban on travelling. Those who needed to leave home during the restricted period could seek permission from authorities.

A conflict has arisen between Mr Chalerm and Defence Minister Sukumpol Suwanatat over the idea. Mr Chalerm rejected ACM Sukumpol's comment that the curfew was unneccessary, saying he was in no position to give an opinion.

Gen Prayuth said if the authorities could not impose the curfew, then the people would have to look after themselves.

Meanwhile, the man suspected of murdering Narathiwat teacher Chonlathee Charoenchol last month was shot dead yesterday in a gun battle with security forces in Pattani, authorities said.

A joint task force of police and soldiers raided a house on Tapha Road in tambon Taluban in Sai Buri district around 11.30am after receiving a tip that a militant suspect with outstanding arrest warrants was there.

Suhaidee Tahe, 31, opened fire at the troops and fled into a nearby forest, officers said. Soldiers and police fired back and after a 10 minute gunfight, they found the suspect lying dead with a 9mm handgun beside him.

Police said Suhaidee was a key leader of a separatist group in Narathiwat's Bacho district, where he lived.

They said he was wanted on eight warrants from Bacho police station and another from Sai Buri for involvement in bomb attacks, killing state officials, burning schools and most recently for allegedly murdering Chonlathee.

The slaying of Chonlathee, 51, shocked security forces due to its cold-blooded nature _ he was shot in the head in front of his students.

Early yesterday morning, a territorial defence volunteer was killed and his colleague seriously injured in an ambush in Pattani's Yarang district, police said.

Investigator Pol Lt Jirawat Thongtha said the attack occurred on a road in Ban Ton Phai, tambon Moh Wawee of Yarang district. The victim was identified as Sulhiblee Ta-yeh, 28, of Yala's Muang district.

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Writer: Wassana Nanuam & Parez Lohasant