Sat, Jul 19, 2008 - Page 1 News List

Thailand’s south says ceasefire a hoax

AFP, YALA , THAILAND

Televised claims of a ceasefire by separatist militants were derided yesterday as a hoax in Thailand’s Muslim-majority south, after a veteran insurgent leader disavowed the move.

A group called Ruam Pak Tai Khong Prathet Thai (Thailand’s United Southern Underground group) made a videotaped announcement on Thursday, broadcast on an army-run TV station, declaring an end to the violence.

The declaration was greeted with widespread doubts among the Thai military, other insurgent leaders and residents of the southern region along the Malaysian border who have suffered through four years of near-daily attacks.

Thailand’s army commander General Anupong Paojinda said the military was surprised by the announcement, and an official statement later distanced the army further from the ex-army chief who had apparently negotiated the move.

General Chetta Thanacharo, also the former defense minister, claimed he had orchestrated a ceasefire.

“The royal Thai army has nothing to do with the announcement by the militant group on Thai television. It was carried out by a private person, General Chetta, who hopes for peace in the southern provinces,” the statement said.

“The Thai army continues to adhere to a policy of non-violence and strict law enforcement to solve the problems in the south and to create justice along with development and security for local residents,” it said.

Hours after Thursday’s televised statement, leaflets written in Thai and Arabic began circulating around the restive town of Yala, urging militants to continue their armed struggle and to ignore the ceasefire announcement.

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