Tue, Jun 29, 2004 - Page 5 News List

Separatist violence leaves 2 dead, 7 hurt in Thailand


A visit by Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra to Thailand's restive southern provinces was marred by fresh separatist attacks that left two people dead and seven injured, police said yesterday.

A marine officer was killed and six colleagues injured on Sunday afternoon in a bomb blast at an athletic field in Narathiwat Province, a hotspot of separatist attacks that have left more than 200 people dead this year.

A former village official was earlier shot and killed in neighboring Pattani province just before a Thaksin delegation arrived in the region for the latest initiative to try to quell violence in the Muslim-majority south.

Thongkaew Temte, 51, a former deputy village headman, was shot three times before he was slashed with a machete. Another person nearby was injured, said police.

"We are not sure whether it is personal or related to the ongoing violence," a police spokesman said.

After his trip, Thaksin condemned the attacks and vowed to step up the battle against the militants, saying authorities arrested five men in Yala province suspected of involvement in the attacks.

"The government will intensify its measures to suppress the insurgents, while at the same time it will increase social and economic activities to return the situation in the south to normal," he told reporters in Bangkok yesterday.

Thai intelligence had predicted bombings in six areas in the south, four of which have already been attacked, the premier said.

After a raid on a Yala house that led to the latest arrests police displayed evidence they said was gathered at the scene, including religious books, bomb-making equipment and mobile phones.

The five men taken into custody denied they were linked with the violence, police said.

Thaksin travelled to the south to launch a soccer tournament to help forge national unity in the provinces of Yala, Pattani, Narathiwat, Songkhla and Satun.

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