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Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Simmering anger in the troubled south (Thailand) ST Jun 10 2009

Simmering anger in the troubled south

IN 1786, the kingdom of Siam invaded and destroyed the southern kingdom of Pattani. Through the 1900s, separatist groups waged a low level but occasionally fierce resistance to Bangkok's rule.
Siam - later becoming Thailand - sought to assimilate the region's Malay Muslims but its efforts spawned deep resentment.

However, the insurgent groups failed to gain traction and sputtered on fitfully until Thaksin Shinawatra came to power in Bangkok in 2001.

As prime minister, he made several changes in the way the southern provinces were administered which alienated the people there. Those changes, and deaths in the south at the hands of the police, spawned a backlash.

Simmering anger finally boiled over on Jan4, 2004, when militants raided a military weapons depot in Narathiwat province, killing soldiers and making off with a cache of weapons.

The raid marked the start of the current phase of the insurgency, which has claimed the lives of nearly 3,500 Muslims and Buddhists since.

Thailand's 'deep south' has suffered almost daily bombings, arson attacks and drive-by shootings. There have also been grisly beheadings.

In one of the bloodiest incidents, over 30 militants were killed by security forces in a three-hour gun battle at Pattani's historic Krue Se mosque in April 2004.

Successive Thai governments have tried to end the unrest, alternating between tougher security measures and offers of economic development.

But nothing has worked. Excesses by Thai armed forces - and a lack of accountability - have only served to create a new generation of militants.

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