Thailand ready to impose curfew in areas of troubled south

BANGKOK (AP) — Thailand's Cabinet has authorized the imposition of a curfew in areas of the country's far south where Muslim separatist insurgents are active, just days after they staged a devastating attack.

The authorization, signed by Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha and published Friday, came in the wake of coordinated attacks late Tuesday that killed 15 security personnel, mostly lightly armed village defense volunteers.

The attacks in Yala province appeared to have inflicted the highest death toll on the government side since the insurgency flared in 2004. Some 7,000 civilians, soldiers, government workers and rebels have died in the violence.

The curfew authorization under the Internal Security Act grants the Internal Security Operations Command, the military's political coordination body, the right to impose a curfew in nine districts from Dec. 1, 2019, until Nov. 30, 2020. Other measures allowed under Article 18 of the act include restricting people from entering or leaving premises; closing roads and restricting the use of vehicles; and restricting the use of electronic and other devices or equipment that could harm people or public property.

The measures are supposed to be applied in a way that minimizes inconvenience to the public at large.

Because of the unrest in the provinces of Yala, Pattani, Narathiwat and parts of Songkhla, other measures granting security agencies special powers are already in effect in the area. But because they allow the military to carry out certain law enforcement activities that are not subject to normal laws and court oversight, they abridge the civil rights of residents, who can be subject to abuses, especially when in detention.

The provinces in the deep south are the only one with Muslim-majority populations in Buddhist-dominated Thailand, and Muslim residents have long protested that they are treated like second-class citizens. Heavy-handed government efforts to fight the insurgents have increased discontent while making little obvious headway to stem the violence.

Malaysia has brokered on-again, off-again peace talks between the Thai government and an insurgent alliance to little avail. There is no consensus demand from the rebels, who remain a shadowy mix of veteran separatists and often loosely led groups of violent young militants. The insurgents' goals range from greater autonomy to independence, with little sign that they are related to jihadist movements that are active in other Southeast Asian countries, including Indonesia and the Philippines.