Thai PM visits violence-torn south after deadly attacks

BANGKOK Thu Dec 13, 2012 3:47pm IST

Thailand's Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra leaves the Plenary session of the 21st ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) and East Asia summit in Phnom Penh November 20, 2012. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj/Files

Thailand's Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra leaves the Plenary session of the 21st ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) and East Asia summit in Phnom Penh November 20, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Damir Sagolj/Files

Related Topics

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra went to the south of Thailand on Thursday after attacks blamed on Muslim insurgents this week in which six people were killed, including an 11-month-old child and two teachers, who are increasingly seen as targets.

More than 5,000 people have been killed since 2004 in the low-level insurgency in three Muslim majority provinces in the predominantly Buddhist country.

Five teachers have been killed in the past six weeks - the militants see schools as a main element in state attempts to assimilate ethnic Malay Muslims - and Yingluck held meetings with teachers as well as security officials during her visit.

"Whatever happens, children need to have a safe place to learn. I thank teachers for having the courage to teach and I will ask for reinforcements and extra troops to ensure their security," Yingluck told reporters.

Gunmen three adults and the baby in an attack on Tuesday at a tea shop in Narathiwat province.

Later that day, a headmistress and teacher were shot dead in the staff canteen of a school in Pattani province, 1,055 km (655 miles) south of the capital, Bangkok.

"Even before Tuesday's attack it was fairly clear the insurgents had launched a new campaign targeting the education system in the region," said Anthony Davis, a Thai-based analyst at security consulting firm IHS-Jane's.

Part of an independent Malay Muslim sultanate until annexed by Thailand in 1909 Pattani, Narathiwat and Yala provinces have seen almost daily shootings and bomb attacks since January 2004, when the separatist insurgency by ethnic Malays resurfaced after simmering for decades.

The heavy-handed tactics of Yingluck's brother, then premier Thaksin Shinawatra, were seen by many analysts as at least partly to blame for the intensification of the insurgency.

"MOST VIOLENT INTERNAL CONFLICT"

Since 2004, 5,206 people have been killed and 9,137 wounded, according to Deep South Watch, an organisation that monitors the violence.

Classes have been suspended at 1,200 schools in the three provinces until next week to assess security for pupils and teachers.

More than 50 children have been killed and some 340 injured in the provinces bordering Malaysia since 2004, according to the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF).

UNICEF's representative in Thailand, Bijaya Rajbhandari, called the attacks "a tragic, senseless and unacceptable act".

Successive governments have spent more than 160 billion baht in the past eight years to quell the violence but the insurgency has rumbled on.

Thailand's National Security Council says it will deploy an extra 4,000 police to the region by April 2013 to reinforce some 60,000 members of security forces already stationed there.

The International Crisis Group said in a report this week the government should reverse the militarisation of the south and end the culture of impunity for security forces, calling the insurgency "Southeast Asia's most violent internal conflict".

Civilians bear the brunt of the violence and the lack of accountability for crimes committed by security forces against Muslim villagers has increased distrust between residents and the state, the think-tank said.

(Additional reporting by Surapan Boonthanom; Editing by Alan Raybould and Robert Birsel)

FILED UNDER:
Comments (0)
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.

  • Most Popular
  • Most Shared

KOREA FERRY TRAGEDY

REUTERS SHOWCASE

Ukraine Crisis

Ukraine Crisis

Three dead in east Ukraine, Putin warns of "abyss".  Full Article | Related Story 

Ebola Outbreak

Ebola Outbreak

Death toll from Guinea Ebola outbreak rises to 122.  Full Article 

Putin Talks

Putin Talks

Runaway spy Snowden is surprise guest on Putin phone-in.  Full Article 

Missing Airliner

Missing Airliner

Search for Malaysia Airlines jet refocuses on drone scans of seafloor  Full Article 

U.S.-Japan Summit

U.S.-Japan Summit

Obama, Abe to battle negative images at U.S.-Japan summit.  Full Article 

Blogger Released

Blogger Released

China releases blogger on bail, jails another amid rumour crackdown   Full Article 

China Pollution

China Pollution

Beijing's bid to move polluting firms watched warily in nearby regions  Full Article 

Holy Week

Holy Week

The Christian faithful celebrate Holy Week, the week which leads into Easter Sunday.  Slideshow 

Reuters India Mobile

Reuters India Mobile

Get the latest news on the go. Visit Reuters India on your mobile device.  Full Coverage