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Thai military and insurgents change tack in southern provinces

SI SAKHON, NARATHIWAT, Thailand -- Even as fingers are pointed at southern separatists as among possible suspects behind a string of bombing and arson attacks on Aug. 11 and 12 in southern Thailand, the Thai military is shifting strategy on countering the 12-year old insurgency. By October, the Thai army will reduce its presence in the historically contested southernmost provinces, in favor of outsourcing security responsibilities to volunteers and officials at the village level.

Village chiefs, provincial governors, district chiefs and paramilitary Defense Volunteers, who normally take their orders from the Thai interior ministry, are being assigned more onerous security duties. These include patrolling violence-prone areas alongside regular army soldiers and paramilitary Rangers. The concept -- known as the Tung Yang Daeng model, after a district in Pattani province where it was introduced -- is to put the volunteers rather than regular soldiers in the line of fire of insurgents. In the past, the rebels have shown that they prefer to leave local people alone.

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