11/08/2006, 00.00
THAILAND
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Peace in the south and fighting corruption are post-coup Thailand's main challenges

by Weena Kowitwanij
The acting prime minister lays out his government main goals at a forum organised by the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand. The secession of southern provinces is excluded as a solution to the local crisis.

Bangkok (AsiaNews) – The fight against corruption, the restoration of the rule of law and a solution to the crisis in the southern provinces that excludes secession are the key objectives of Thailand's new acting government, this according to Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont who spoke last night at a forum organised by the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand.

The acting government will advance ''far-reaching and drastic reforms'' to re-establish the rule of law and wipe out corruption which has become a ''national disease'', Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont said. Ministers will set a good example for the population and the new constitution will require cabinet members to respect moral and ethical principles.

The military junta in power since September has repeatedly justified the bloodless coup by pointing at what it called the widespread corruption during the five years of the Thaksin administration which it says was a threat to the foundations of democracy in Thailand.

The acting government will also deal with the Muslim separatist insurgency in the southern provinces, which is mixed up with local criminal gangs and politicians.

Young people will play a key role in solving the crisis, Surayud said. Today in fact he will meet youth and teachers in Yala to "express the central government's support and to talk about local problems and listen to advice." But whilst everything can be discussed, the country's territorial integrity is not. "We are all Thai and must show that we can live together peacefully," he explained.

The central government has allocated almost US$ 8 million to build five schools in Narathiwas, Pattani, Yala, Satul and Songkhala for children orphaned, marginalised and victimised by the fighting.

The Army Corps of Engineers will build the facilities using local manpower. They should be up and running by August 12 of next year.

Each school will have elementary and high school classes and an average 810 pupils.

The Yawe language, spoken by southern Thai Muslims, will be among the subjects taught alongside Thai, Buddhism and Islam.

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