Thu, Nov 18, 2004 - Page 5 News List

Thai Buddhist dies despite Queen's pleas for restraint

DPA , BANGKOK

A Thai Buddhist was gunned down in the southern province of Pattani yesterday, a day after Thai Queen Sirikit made an emotional appeal to stop the slaughter of Buddhists in the deep South.

Noi Sangamphai, 47, was shot dead early yesterday morning by two pistol-weilding assailants riding a motorcycle in Yaring, Pattani province, 730km south of Bangkok.

Noi had died from four bullets wounds to the body by the time he was brought to a hospital in Pattani city, Police Major Anand Keowmanee said.

He was the latest victim of a spate of attacks this year on Thai government officials, teachers, Buddhist monks and increasingly, ordinary Thai Buddhist residents in the country's three southernmost provinces -- Narathiwat, Pattani and Yala.

Queen Sirikit, who spent two months at her palace in Nara-thiwat earlier this year, on Tuesday night made an emotional one-hour appeal to all Thais to respect the human rights of the 300,000 Thai Buddhists living in the deep south.

Some 1.7 million of the 2 million people living in the three provinces are Muslim, making the region the only majority Muslim population in predominantly Buddhist Thailand. The remaining 300,000 are mostly Buddhists.

"Every Thai owns Thailand, so we need to help think of ways to solve the situation and save the lives of the 300,000 Thais living in southern Thailand," said the queen in a speech to 1,000 people who gathered at the Dusit Palace on Tuesday night. The speech was also televised nationwide.

"These people have not committed any crimes, and they have the right to earn a living in their own country," said Queen Sirikit.

She recounted several gruesome accounts of slaying and beheading of Thai Buddhists, reportedly perpetrated by Muslim militants, in the south that have occurred this year.

Clashes in the South have claimed up to 500 victims this year. A government crackdown on machete-weilding Muslim youth on April 28 left 107 dead, and another crackdown on a mob on Oct. 28 left 85 people dead, 78 of whom died of suffocation in custody while being trucked to an army base.

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