11/13/2006, 00.00
THAILAND
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Too risky for Buddhist monks to ask for alms anymore

After several attacks, monks in the southern Narathiwat province have decided to suspend their regular morning custom, inviting believers to bring their offerings to the temples instead.

Bangkok (AsiaNews/Agencies) – As from today, Buddhist monks in Narathiwat province in southern Thailand will no longer ask for alms in the streets as they used to do every morning. The risk is considered too great in the region, where militant separatists have killed several Buddhists in recent years.

Prakru Papassorn Sirikhun, abbot of Kao Kong Temple, said the decision was made in a meeting of senior monks on 10 November. It is a custom of the monks to go every morning in the streets of cities and villages to ask for alms. But in recent months, the monks have become the target of attacks by the Islamic insurgency, which is demanding the separation of the southern provinces from Bangkok. Recently, soldiers have been escorting monks but still there has been no letup in attacks. In October, militants injured monks who were asking for alms in the morning, killing two soldiers who sought to protect them.

The abbot said army Intelligence had informed them that an increase in attacks against monks was expected in the coming days. "We will review the decision when the situation returns to normal. For now people should go to their nearest temples to bring offerings," he said. However, the local press reported that not many faithful turned up this morning.

The Muslim majority living in the three southern provinces of Yala, Narathiwat and Pattani is calling for independence from the rest of the – Buddhist – country, which is more advanced with different language and traditions. The beginning of violence dates back to the eighties, but it became systematic only in 2004, targeting especially teachers and monks apart from the police and army. To date, more than 1,400 people have been killed.

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