Thailand's army-installed Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont on Tuesday accused the nation's junta leader of failing to do enough to curb a separatist insurgency in the Muslim-majority south.
General Sondhi Boonyaratglin, who heads the junta as well as Thailand's main security organisation, has failed to improve the security situation in the southern provinces along the border with Malaysia, Surayud told reporters.
"I have already assessed (his work). It does not meet our expectations. He needs to do more," Surayud said after the weekly cabinet meeting.
The premier, who is a former army chief, said the failure to improve security had doomed his own efforts to find a political solution to the conflict that has killed 1,900 people over three years.
"Most villagers have no confidence that the government can help them. During public hearings in the region, it's clear that people have no confidence in the government," Surayud said.
The unusual public criticism from Surayud against the man who appointed him as premier came amid escalating violence in the region, with three people killed in attacks overnight.
Surayud has made resolving the conflict a top priority, and has restored a key mediation centre while extending an offer to hold talks with the militants.
He has also worked to improve ties with neighbouring Malaysia, which had been badly strained by the unrest.
His Malaysian counterpart left Bangkok early Tuesday after a three-day trip aimed at finding solutions to the conflict.
After Sondhi ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra in a coup in September, hopes had risen that he would be able to end the unrest.
Sondhi is a Muslim himself, although he has little else in common with the ethnic Malay residents of southern Thailand.
Sondhi has taken control of Thailand's Internal Security Operation Command and assumed direct responsibility for security in the south.
But the violence has flared since the coup, including two grisly beheadings this month.
The three Muslim-majority provinces were once an autonomous sultanate, until the region was annexed by Thailand a century ago. Separatist unrest has erupted periodically every since.