10/29/2004, 00.00
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More violence in southern Thailand

Not everyone in the south wants independence but the government should not take advantage of its greater might, says Fr Adriano Pelosin, a missioner in Bangkok for over 20 years.

Bangkok (AsiaNews) – Two bombs exploded today in southern Thailand injuring 18 people. One bomb blew up in a teashop in a town in Yala province wounding 8 people including 3 police officers. An hour and half later, a second bomb went off in the same place injuring another 12 police officers, four of them critically. Yesterday, another bomb exploded in Sungai Kolok on the border with Malaysia killing a Malaysian tourist and a local woman.

On Monday, 78 demonstrators died of suffocation as they were being taken to barracks crammed in army trucks. They were among the many protesters arrested who had gathered in front of Takbai police station (in the southern province of Narathiwast) to demonstrate against the detention of six individuals suspected of having supplied weapons to separatist rebels, who for years have been fighting for a separate southern homeland. Six other people died in the street clashes with soldiers.

The Islamic Pattani United Liberation Organisation (PULO)—a group opposed to Bangkok's rule in the predominantly Muslim southern provinces—vowed revenge for the latest deaths.

Thailand's Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra stated that a government enquiry would shed light on the event. He did however defend the actions of Thai troops in the course of this "incident".

Speaking about the recent violence, Fr Adriano Pelosin, PIME missioner in Bangkok since 1978, said that the secession of the "south is impossible. They are an integral part of the country and cannot be detached from the rest of Thailand".

According to Father Pelosin, "the situation in the south is complex. On the one hand, you have Muslims who are ethnic Malay and are largely in favour of independence. On the other, ethnic Thais are Buddhist and those living in the south do not want independence".

The PIME missioner insists that the government in Bangkok must show greater responsibility than it has so far. It "must deal with southern Muslims with greater prudence. It cannot use force indiscriminately because this can only provoke further violence. It must rein in Thai soldiers who are notorious for their lack of diplomatic skills and their habit of using the iron fist in revolts."

Since January of this year, some 440 people have died in southern Thailand as a result of clashes between the army and separatists. (LF)

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See also
Separatist violence flares up again in the south
Commission of enquiry to investigate Takbai tragedy
Indian Christians accused of favouring Kashmiri separatism
Reinforcements of troops in southern Muslim provinces anticipate new attacks
Thailand: Bomb blasts greet premier Thaksin in the south


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