Sun, Dec 19, 2004 - Page 5 News List

Thaksin blames Indonesia for terror

AP , BANGKOK

Militants behind the ongoing violence in Thailand's Muslim-majority far south have been indoctrinated by extremists in nearby Indonesia, Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra said yesterday.

Separately, police tried to quell concerns that major attacks have been planned to take place around the country -- including in Bangkok -- early next month.

Police anticipate some small attacks to mark the first anniversary of a Jan. 4 insurgent raid on a Thai army camp in Narathiwat province, said police Lieutenant General Jumphon Manmai, director of the National Intelligence Bureau. Four soldiers died and hundreds of weapons were seized in the Jan. 4 assault.

Nevertheless, there's no indication that large-scale attacks in Bangkok and the south have been planned as cited in some news reports, Jumphon said.

The prime minister, meanwhile, repeated earlier charges that some Thai militants -- fighting for an independent Muslim state in the southernmost provinces of Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat -- were trained in neighboring Malaysia and in Islamic schools in southern Thai-land, and had been brainwashed by Indonesian militants.

"These strange acts have been learned from extremists in Indonesia. Many are students who have studied religion in Indonesia," Thaksin said in his weekly radio address.

Most Thais are Buddhist, but the majority of people in the south are Muslims. Some complain of discrimination by the government.

More than 550 people have died this year in the southern insurgency, that some contend is fueled by support from Malaysia -- which borders the troubled provinces -- and Indonesia, home to more Muslims than any other country in the world.

Thaksin's government has been criticized at home and abroad for using heavy-handed tactics to dampen the smoldering insurgency.

At least 85 Muslims died on Oct. 25 when security forces dispersed a protest in Narathiwat's Tak Bai district. Most of the demonstrators suffocated or were crushed to death after being packed into military trucks.

"The high death toll clearly indicates that there was wrongdoing in the ways authorities handled the Muslim protesters," said Pichet Sunthornpipit, who chaired a government committee investigating the Tak Bai deaths.

In its report, the committee noted which government agencies should be held responsible for the tragedy, but said it was up to the government to decide if individuals should be prosecuted, Pichet said yesterday.

Pichet did, however, say that up to 10 individuals were responsible for handling the protest.

He singled out Lieutenant General Pisarn Wattanawongkhiri, the former army chief for the region, Lieutenant General Wongkot Man-eerin, the assistant national police chief, and Siva Saengmanee, deputy director of a special task force handling the violence in the south of the country.

He refused to give other details of the report.

Thaksin said the government plans to arrest 68 core members of the separatist movement.

Four suspected leaders were brought to Bangkok on Friday pending formal treason charges against them.

The four, all Islamic teachers, face a maximum penalty of death if found guilty.

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