11/03/2006, 00.00
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Southern Muslims pleased about provisional government, hoping for peace

by Weena Kowitwanij
Acting Prime Minister Surayud apologises for errors like the Takbai massacre made under the Thaksin administration. Muslim leaders praise his remarks, pledging their cooperation to find a peaceful solution to the ongoing violence.

Pattani (AsiaNews) – Muslim community leaders in southern Thailand are pleased by the remarks and commitment made by former general Surayud Chulanont, currently Thailand's acting prime minister, who yesterday apologised for the errors made in handling the violence that has affected their region.

After meeting Mr Surayud Chulanont, Yakob Hraimanee, a Muslim leader in Pattani, said of the prime minister: "He is a sincere man, a brave militant. He sincerely intends to solve the problem. For Muslims, when someone asks for forgiveness, though we feel great pain in our heart, we are ready to forgive because forgiveness is Islam's most valuable teaching".

In his speech before 1,500 people who suffered from the actions of the former Thaksin government against Muslim separatists, PM Surayud asked for forgiveness for two things.

"First of all, I would like to ask for forgiveness for the harm done to you. Secondly, as the Chief of Royal Thai Army, who was in charge of southern provinces at the time, I am sorry for doing nothing to prevent the sufferings or harm done to you, especially in Takbai, where we lost many of our brothers and sisters."

On October 25, 2004, in Takbai, in the southern province of Narathiwast, a crowd of Muslims had gathered in front of a police station to protest against the arrest of six people suspected of supplying weapons to separatist rebels, who have been fighting for years for the independence of the region. Soldiers arrested dozens of the protesters and loaded them in lorries; 78 of them suffocated to death. Another six demonstrators died in street clashes.

Following the incidents, then Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra announced a government inquiry into what happened but defended the actions by the troops saying that the loss of life was an "accident".

Mr Hraimanee noted that the reactivation of the Southern Border Provinces Development Center will result in renewed "cooperation between all the parties involved: religious leaders, population and government. This way the situation will soon become peaceful."

He added that "we southern residents do not want to solve the crisis through the use of force as the former administration did".

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See also
Military pledge suport for democracy
Peace in the south and fighting corruption are post-coup Thailand's main challenges
Bangkok tries new approach to solve crisis in mostly Muslim south
Nine anti-coup protest organisers in prison
Thaksin charged with corruption in Supreme Court


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