Monday, January 29, 2007

Eye on Thailand: Muslim Violence Continues

By John E. Carey
January 29, 2007

Police in Thailand’s southern provinces of Yala and Pattani said on Sunday that at least five more people have been killed by sectarian violence.

Muslim extremists in southern Thailand want to break away from the kingdom and form their own government. More than 1,800 people have been killed in the violence. Most of the dead have been Buddhists that the Muslims have been trying to force out of the region.

But recently, more Muslim’s have been killed in retaliation.

AFP reported that a 33-year-old Muslim was gunned down in a drive-by shooting late Sunday as he rode a motorcycle to his home in Yala, one of three Muslim-majority provinces bordering Malaysia, police said.

In neighbouring Pattani province, a 46-year-old Buddhist man was also killed in a drive-by shooting late Sunday.

Meanwhile, two Buddhist couples were shot after insurgents opened fire on a home in Songkhla province, near Yala. Three people were killed, and the fourth was seriously injured, police said.

Despite peace-building initiatives by Thailand's government, installed after a coup four months ago, violence in the three southernmost provinces of Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat has spiralled in recent months.

Thailan’s government, which came to power after a coup last September, has been trying to end the violence and restore order. Thai Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont had been blaming the lack of progress toward peace on his processor, Prime Minister Thaksin, who was deposed in the coup. But after recent personal initiative to end the violence have failed, the government of Thailand seems in a difficult situation that it cannot seem to resolve.

Thailand's government has also periodically accused Malaysia of protecting insurgents in the northern states which border Thailand, a charge the Malaysian government has denied.

Wantanne contributed from Thailand for this report.