Sat, Jul 03, 2004 - Page 5 News List

Thai teachers end strike after threats, promises


More than 4,000 Thai teachers who went on strike to demand better protection from Islamic separatists returned to work yesterday after the military promised them more guards and Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra threatened to fire them.

Tawat Saehum, president of the Narthiwat Teachers Federation, said the teachers, who stayed away from their jobs on Wednesday and Thursday, shutting down 422 public schools in the southern province of Narathiwat, had received new safety assurances from police, army officers and provincial authorities.

Teachers, along with police and soldiers, have been among the targets of militants hoping to separate Thailand's three southern Moslem-majority provinces -- Narathiwat, Yala and Pattani -- from the rest of the country.

Nearly 300 people have been killed in a series of attacks by militants and counter-strikes by troops and police since January.

But Thaksin reacted angrily to the teachers' strike, threatening on Wednesday to fire leaders of the protest and urging teachers in Narathiwat to be more patient and "strong-minded." He said teachers in the south were already getting extra protection and extra pay for staying on the job.

Tawat complained that the government offered teachers an extra 2,500 baht (US$62.50) per month each to stay on the job, but they had only been given 1,000 baht.

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