A special administrative zone for the far South?
The government seems to be hesitant about what kind of administration it wants to put in place for the violence-prone far South.
On the one hand, there is this two-tiered new administrative structure proposed by the Internal Security Operations Command. It comprises a policy-making body to be called the Policy Committee to Resolve Problems in Southern Border Provinces which is to be headed by one of the deputy prime ministers and the implementation level body to be called the Committee to Resolve Problems in Southern Provinces which is headed by the commander of the 4th Army Region.
On the other hand, there is this proposed Pattani Maha Nakhon special administrative zone whose jurisdiction covers the three southernmost provinces of Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat plus four districts of Songkhla. Under this proposed administration, the governor’s posts in Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat will be dissolved and there will be only one elected governor for the special zone.
The Isoc’s proposal has been widely discussed in various workshops organized by the security agency since last October. It is now awaiting a final greenlight from Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra in her capacity as Isoc director.
The Pattani Maha Nakhon special administrative zone was proposed by a House panel led by Pheu Thai MP Prasob Busarakham. The administrative model is similar to the Nakhon Pattani special administrative zone proposed by former prime minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh which was used as an election campaign tool by the Pheu Thai party in the July election. However, it was later dumped after the party failed to win a single parliamentary seat in the three southernmost provinces.
Asked about the Pattani Maha Nakhon special administrative zone, Prasob said his panel was yet to draft a bill about the special zone but he appeared to be fully in supportive of the initiative.
The Pheu Thai MP said that the concept of a special administrative zone was borrowed from the Chinese experience. “Why a socialist state like China has made a lot of progress. The answer is that the central government has decentralized the power to allow its provinces to have a certain level of self administration. Likewise in Thailand if any province is ready for self governance, then it should be allowed to administer its own affairs with minimum supervision from the government,” said the MP.
The draft bill for Pattani Maha Nakhon special administrative zone is now being considered by security agencies. Besides the draft bill, there is another bill to amend the Southern Border Provinces Administration Centre Act which needs to be changed somewhat to correspond with the special zone plan.
Informed sources said that the security agencies had strong reservation about the proposed special administration zone fearing that it may encourage insurgents to step up violence in the region.
So which of the two models that the government will choose – between a special administrative zone and a new administrative organization to give more powers to the military as proposed by Isoc?
If the government opts for the Pattani Maha Nakhon model, then it must make an announcement about it so that all stakeholders can express their opinions whether they support or oppose it.
Since this is an important issue, public hearings should be staged before a law is being drafted. Let say, just the name Pattani Maha Nakhon or Nakhon Pattani, do the people in Yala and Narathiwat accept the name. Or whether the people in Songkhla agree to the prospect of four districts to be carved out of Songkhla to be incorporated with the new administrative zone?
There are more questions yet to be answered. What to do with the various local governments such as Tambon Administrative Organisation ( Or Bor Tor), Provincial Administrative Organisation (Or Bor Jor) and municipalies? Will all of them be dissolved?