Wed, Nov 24, 2004 - Page 5 News List

Thai deputy governor shot by militants

RETALIATION After Thai police killed two motorcycle attackers Monday, militants responded by attacking a garbage man with an axe and shooting the governor

DPA , PATTANI, THAILAND

A deputy governor in Thailand's troubled southern province of Pattani was shot with a weapon while inspecting an earlier shooting of two low-ranking government officials yesterday.

Pattani Deputy Governor Sunthorn Wichitpakdi was shot in the buttocks at 1am yesterday while inspecting a school in Yaring town where two night patrolmen had been shot and injured by assailants riding a motorcycle two hours prior, said Deputy Permanent Secretary of the Interior Minister Siva Saengmanee.

A loud gun shot was heard shortly after Sunthorn entered the school building in complete darkness. When dragged from the building Sunthorn had a bullet wound that entered the right buttocks and passed out the abdomen, leaving a big wound.

Pattani doctors who inspected the injury said it was made by a war weapon, judging from the large exit wound made, Siva said.

Sunthorn was taken to a hospital in Haad Yai for emergency treatment where he is in stable condition.

Meanwhile, yesterday morning, an unknown assailant attacked provincial trash collector Boonchu Longpom, 45, with an axe in Saiburi, another town in Pattani. The axe did not cause a serious injury.

The rash of fresh attacks on Pattani government officials followed the slaying of two motorcycle assailants by Pattani police on Monday.

The assailants had reportedly shot at the policemen first.

"The attack on Sunthorn was an act of revenge for the deaths of their people on Monday," Siva said. "This group will immediately take revenge whenever one of their members has been killed."

Clashes between Muslim militants and government security personnel have already claimed close to 500 lives in Thailand's three southernmost provinces -- Narathiwat, Pattani and Yala -- the only region in predominantly Buddhist Thailand where the local population is majority Muslim.

Some 1.7 million of the 2 million people in the so-called "deep South" profess to be followers of Islam.

Sporadic killing have continued this week despite calls by Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej and his consort Queen Sirikit for both sides to adopt non-violent tactics in solving the south's problems.

Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has made a show of heeding the royal family's advice, and has launched a campaign to shower the southern provinces with 62 million paper cranes, symbolizing peace, on Dec. 5th to mark the king's 77th birthday.

Muslim leaders, however, have shrugged off the gesture as meaningless, unless it is followed up with concrete policies aimed at deeper engagement with the southern communities to solve their problems with unequal education opportunities, exploitation by corrupt officials and acceptance of their historical, cultural and religious differences.

"The paper cranes campaign shows good intentions, but they are likely to just end up as garbage," said Waedueramae Maminchi, chairman of the Islamic Council of Pattani province.

The government of Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has been criticized for its heavy-handed suppression of a protest at Tak Bai, Narathiwat, on Oct. 25, in which 85 Thai Muslims died, 78 of them from suffocation while being trucked to an army base for questioning.

Thailand's three southernmost provinces were once part of the independent Pattani kingdom, which was subjected by Thailand's Rama I King more than 200 years ago and fully integrated into the Thai nation less than 100 years ago.

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