If the Thai prime minister's much-touted softer approach to the southern insurgency is going to work, the country's generals will have to be brought along. In response to a spate of bombings over the past week, security has been tightened at airports and other public places. This is as it should be, for safety is among the attractions that keep the world's tourists flocking to Thailand. But the placement of landmines at key outposts in the south, approved at a recent meeting, is an alarming sign that the military has not got the message that the strike-hard, military-first approach to the insurgency is being abandoned. Such a measure would also be illegal under the Ottawa Convention, which Thailand has signed. The social divide in Thailand is more profound now than at any time since Thaksin Shinawatra became prime minister in 2000. The Buddhist-dominated north has prospered amid a long period of economic stability. The south, however, has not seen its fortunes being lifted. Poverty and high unemployment remain widespread, and residents of the country's three Muslim-majority provinces have long complained of discrimination. It was the prosperous north that returned Mr Thaksin's party in overwhelming numbers in the recent parliamentary vote. In the three Muslim-majority provinces of the south, the party did not win a single seat. When a separatist insurgency became active in January last year, the response was to ship more soldiers and bigger armaments to the south. Two later incidents in which dozens of accused insurgents were gunned down or suffocated while in detention remain unexplained. Under pressure from civic leaders, opposition politicians and critics in the press, Mr Thaksin has finally agreed to try some new tactics. But the plans, including a 48-member Reconciliation Commission, which met for the first time yesterday, will need time to defuse the crisis. The commission is scheduled to make suggestions to the prime minister within nine months. Meanwhile, the government can show some signs of good faith, including preventing further militarisation of the poor rural communities of the south. There is no doubt that the rebels have acquired more sophisticated and lethal methods - including remote-activated bombs - and are now staging attacks outside of the south. Tighter security throughout the country - and putting more resources into intelligence - are undoubtedly necessary. But Mr Thaksin should not forget about promises made to the residents of the south. Economic development and fairer treatment would go some way towards stemming southern resentment. Allowing the military to take the lead - and deploy landmines - can only make the situation worse.