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2202Thai troops crush Muslim revolt

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  • World View
    Apr 30, 2004
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      April 28, 2004, updated 12:50 p.m.

      Thai troops crush Muslim militant revolt

      Are attacks by international terrorists, homegrown separatists, or
      just 'bandits'?

      by Matthew Clark | csmonitor.com


      More than 100 Muslim militants were killed by government troops in
      southern Thailand Wednesday. The militants were killed after
      launching early morning attacks on army and police posts in the
      provinces of Yala, Pattani, and Songkhla, near the Malaysian border.
      At least 30 of the rebels were killed when troops raided a mosque
      where they were holed up, reports the Agence France-Presse.
      Only five security personnel were reported to have died in the
      clashes. Police were tipped off about the raid in advance and were
      waiting for the militants, reports The Age of Melbourne, Australia.
      Some of the militants had guns, but most were armed only with
      machetes, said Lieutenant General Proong Bunphandung, the chief of
      police for the south.







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      Thailand's Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra sought immediately to
      portray the attacks as localized criminal acts that were not
      connected to Islamic militancy in the region. He says the attacks
      were motivated by crime, reports Reuters. "We will uproot them,
      depriving them of a chance to allude to issues of separatism and
      religion. In the end, they were all bandits," Thaksin said.

      No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attacks, but Mr.
      Thaksin's official spokesman, Jakrapob Penkair, said the government
      was launching an investigation into the matter. "There have been
      people who take advantage by trying to motivate others to enter a war
      of ideological confrontation, but actually the government sees it as
      camouflage for illegal enterprise."

      But a transcript of an Australian Broadcast Corporation radio program
      says that Thaksin's government "has blamed Islamic separatists
      seeking to establish a homeland in the south of the predominantly
      Buddhist country." On this transcript of ABC's "The World Today,"
      Southeast Asia correspondent Peter Lloyd reports on the confusion
      surrounding who is behind the attacks. He said that some analysts
      believe that the incident is linked to "clashes between corrupt
      elements of the police and the military and also gangsters who are
      running cross-border trade – illicit cross-border trade – between
      neighboring Malaysia." Mr. Lloyd also reports that the intelligence
      community in Thailand doesn't believe that Islamic terrorist groups
      like Al Qaeda or Jemaah Islamiyah have "carved out any presence in
      the south."

      But other analysts have "voiced concerns that the attackers could
      have links to militant groups outside Thailand," reports the BBC. One
      of the militants killed in the clashes had a shirt with JI on the
      back, which BBC says could be a "possible reference to Jemaah
      Islamiyah, the group blamed for terrorist attacks across Southeast
      Asia, including the Bali bombings."

      Voice of America cites professor Ron May, an expert on Southeast
      Asian Islamic movements at Australia National University, as
      saying: "JI and other groups have been operating in southern Thailand
      and as the Army has moved in there have been increasing clashes."

      Some people blame a heavy-handed government crackdown for creating
      animosity in the region, however. BBC reports that Islamic community
      leaders say tactics used by security forces "may have served to
      encourage those who already felt disenfranchised."

      Radio Singapore International cites Chairman of the Human Rights
      Committee of Thailand's Law Society Somchai Homlaor as saying: "The
      Thai government has underestimated the situation in southern Thailand
      for a long time. The group that is behind these attacks may have
      political intentions to establish an independent state."

      In January the government enacted martial law in the southern region
      of Narathiwat after four Thai soldiers were killed and militants took
      M-16 automatic rifles from an army weapons depot. Since then clashes
      in the south have been escalating, says Reuters in a brief chronology
      of the 2004 violence.

      Muslim separatists launched a small-scale insurgency in region in the
      1970s. By the late 80s, this was ended by a general amnesty, notes
      Voice of America.

      The BBC also reports that there is concern Thailand's tourism will be
      affected, despite the fact that most tourist activity is far from the
      southern provinces hit by Wednesday's violence. Malaysia has
      tightened security along its border with Thailand following the
      violence, reports AFP

      http://www.csmonitor.com/2004/0428/dailyUpdate.html

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