Bangkok (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Violence in Southern Thailand once again is targeting schools and teachers. Yesterday 13 schools were set on fire in Yala and Pattani provinces in a series of simultaneous attacks and later a bomb exploded in front of another school Narathiwat wounding a security guard.
There have been no claims of responsibility but authorities accuse Islamic rebels, who see the schools as representing the state and a way of integrating Muslim and Buddhist children.
In Narathiwat, on June 11 two Buddhist teachers were killed in front of their pupils; one of them had asked to be transferred, in fear of his life. Another teacher was killed during lunch break. Many schools remained closet for a week in protest while teachers appealed for greater protection. Many now carry guns for protection and a State course is teaching them how to shoot.
June 12 in Yala an Islamic religion teacher was killed. A day later 200 Islamic youth marched with their faces covered in protest in front of a Mosque urging the authorities to find the assassins.
According to official data, since 2004, over 200 schools have been burned and 77 teachers killed both Muslim and Buddhist. In the Southern provinces of Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat, ex Muslim sultanates, the violence has increased in recent months and attacks have become daily occurrences. The army – present with over 30,000 ground troops – and the police are unable to control the situation and urge Buddhists to avoid specific areas. The rebels want independence from, Bangkok. Islamists and human rights groups accuse the security forces of summary executions and violence against the Muslim population. Yesterday in three separate attacks three Buddhists were killed and 8 soldiers injured. Since the unrest began over 2, 200 people have been killed.
Analysts forecast that sooner or later the rebels will target tourists in the North, in areas such as Phuket, Koh Samui or Bangkok. Tourism is an essential resource for the country. (PB)