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Thailand: South Thai violence toll tops 3,000

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  • Zafar Khan
    South Thai violence toll tops 3,000 , MARCH 21, 2008 http://english.aljazeera.net/NR/exeres/4ECE037B-E2DD-465C-B9D3-734FCE9B00A7.htm Thailand s government has
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 28 1:13 PM
      South Thai violence toll tops 3,000
      , MARCH 21, 2008


      Thailand's government has called an emergency cabinet
      meeting on measures to end violence in the country's
      troubled south after news that the death toll from
      ongoing attacks in the region has topped 3,000.

      Friday's crisis meeting in Bangkok comes as Thailand's
      interior minister says he does not have "any idea" how
      to end the bloodshed.

      On Thursday police confirmed that 3,004 people had
      been killed in the south since attacks flared-up in
      January 2004, with thousands more injured.

      The meeting follows a bomb attack last Saturday at a
      hotel in Pattani province popular with local and
      foreign NGOs and journalists that left two people dead
      and confidence in any "safe zone" in the area

      Symbolic attack

      Al Jazeera correspondent Selina Downes says the CS
      Pattani hotel was considered a haven from the fighting
      and a venue for reconciliation where government
      officials and Muslim leaders held meetings to try to
      end the conflict.

      Human rights groups say the bombing was as symbolic as
      it was destructive.

      "It is a political statement of separatist groups
      showing that they can still launch large scale
      attacks," Sunai Phasuk of Human Rights Watch said of
      the attack.

      "They are stressing the message that the land of the
      south does not belong to Buddhist Thai or ethnic

      The hotel bombing left Chalerm Yubamrung, Thailand's
      interior minister, admitting he did not have "any idea
      how to solve" the situation.

      "The southern unrest is a very serious problem," he
      told reporters. "It's based in their religion, their
      beliefs, and their complaints regarding

      Chalerm held talks with security officials in Songkhla
      in the south on Thursday but stayed out of the most
      volatile provinces of Narathiwat, Pattani and Yala,
      drawing criticism that he was afraid of travelling in
      the region.

      Rejecting the criticism, the minister said he did not
      want to disrupt security work in the region and would
      visit the provinces later.

      Peaceful means

      He said the new Thai government, installed in January,
      was committed to peaceful means to end the crisis.

      "I want to stress that our policy – the prime minister
      and myself – we want to talk, we don't want to use
      force," he said.

      He has also called for help from the opposition
      Democratic party, whose political strength is in the
      troubled region, and said that negotiations with the
      separatists may require the help of foreign mediators.

      But the government's emergency meeting comes on a day
      when the Thai government is also reviving its
      controversial "war on drugs".

      The first time the policy was launched by Thaksin
      Shinawatra, the former prime minister, thousands of
      people were killed and critics accused government
      forces of extra-judicial killings.

      Thaksin's crackdown in the south was also blamed for
      inflaming the situation and alienating many Muslims.

      The military leaders who ousted Thaksin in a September
      2006 coup fared no better, initiating various
      reconciliation and peace-building measures but failing
      to stop the violence.

      The new government has said it wants to rebuild
      relations with the Muslim community.

      "We will kick-start a new economic era in the south.
      We want to hear how we can help them. We want them to
      have a sustainable community," Chalerm said.

      But talk of autonomy for the southern region was
      quickly quashed by Samak Sundaravej, the new prime
      minister, shortly after he took office and analysts
      say the government cannot negotiate if it does not
      know who to negotiate with.

      "The problem is the government still cannot recognise
      real actors behind violent attacks. Militants have
      never issued statements or claimed responsibility,"
      Srawut Aree, a professor of Muslim studies at
      Bangkok's Chulalongkorn University, told the AFP news

      Filmgoer faces jail in Thailand for sitting during the
      national anthem
      Richard Lloyd Parry in Bangkok
      April 24, 2008


      The lights had gone down, the film was about to begin,
      and the young Thai couple were cosily ensconced in the
      big Bangkok cinema when the popcorn started flying.
      Most of it landed on the woman, hurled by a man to her
      right. Soon he was slapping her with a rolled-up film
      flyer, and screaming at her and her boyfriend to get
      out of the cinema.

      As the rest of the audience joined in, jeering,
      throwing water bottles and urging on the assailant,
      the two made their retreat. The incident reached its
      climax this week when the boyfriend, Chotisak Onsoong,
      was charged with an offence that could land him in
      jail for 15 years. His alleged crime was simple:
      during the playing of the royal anthem which precedes
      all films in Thai cinemas, he had remained in his

      Mr Chotisak, a 27-year old businessman and political
      activist, is the latest person to be prosecuted under
      Thailand’s stringent lèse majesté laws, which make it
      a crime to “defame, insult or threaten” the King,
      Queen or heir to the throne.

      Unquestionably, many Thais revere 80-year-old King
      Bhumibol Adulyadej, whose image is seen in almost
      every office, many homes and on giant billboards hung
      every few hundred yards above Thailand’s roads. But
      others see the law as a tool of oppression and a means
      of intimidating those who peacefully question the
      status quo.

      “Not standing up is not an offence against anyone –
      that’s what I think,” Mr Chotisak said in yesterday’s
      Bangkok Post, after being charged on Tuesday. “The
      public have the right to make a choice whether to rise
      or not . . . I would like to stress that what I did
      was not intended to insult or express vengeance to the
      King. I was simply enjoying my right to freedom of
      expression.” In Thailand academics struggle for the
      right even to discuss the monarchy, let alone
      criticise it. And in recent years there has been an
      increase in accusations of lèse majesté.

      Mr Chotisak is that rare thing in Thailand – an overt
      Republican. His girlfriend is a Muslim, and objects to
      the idolisation of a human. But their ordeal was mild,
      compared with those of some dissenters.

      In March last year a Swiss man received a ten-year
      prison term for drunkenly defacing posters of the
      King. He was pardoned and deported. Last summer a
      professor of philosophy at Silpakorn University in
      Bangkok, Boonsong Chaisingkananont, found himself
      under investigation for lèse majesté after setting the
      following examination questions for his first-year
      students. “Is the monarchy necessary for Thai society?
      How should it adapt to a democratic system? Discuss.”

      Revered monarch

      — King Bhumibol Adulyadej is accorded an almost divine
      reverence. His titles include Phra Chao Yu Hua (Lord
      Upon Our Heads) and Chao Chiwit (Lord of Life)

      — The King’s PR team manages his image and makes much
      of his experiments with irrigation in the grounds of
      his palace, his sailing talents and gifts as a jazz

      — Only lavish praise for the Royal Family can be
      published by law

      — In 2006 Bangkok police estimated that almost one
      million Thais thronged the streets of the capital to
      celebrate the King’s 60th anniversary as monarch

      — The King is currently the longest-serving monarch in
      the world

      Source: Times archives
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