Sat, Oct 21, 2006 - Page 5 News List

Thailand extends emergency rule in south of country

AFP AND AP , BANGKOK

Thailand's military government has extended emergency rule in the Muslim-majority south for three more months, amid a surge of violence in the nearly three-year conflict, an army spokesman said yesterday.

"The situation in the south is not stable and we need to keep the emergency decree," said army spokesman Colonel Acar Tiproch.

The military, which toppled former premier Thaksin Shinawatra in a bloodless coup on September 19, quietly renewed the decree late last month in the three southern restive provinces of Narathiwat, Pattani and Yala, Acar said.

Under emergency rule, authorities can detain suspects for up to 30 days without charge, search and arrest without warrants and tap phones.

The measure also gives security forces broad immunity from prosecution, which human rights groups claim creates a climate of impunity.

The latest extension of emergency rule was purely a formality because the entire country has been under martial law since the coup.

But should martial law be lifted in the rest of Thailand, emergency rule would remain in effect in the south at least until Jan. 19, when it comes up again for renewal.

Declaring emergency rule in the south was one of the most controversial measures taken by Thaksin, who was widely criticized for his hardline tactics in combatting the insurgency.

Since Thaksin first imposed it in July last year, Thailand has extended the decree every three months in the insurgency-torn provinces bordering Malaysia.

Since unrest escalated in January 2004, more than 1,500 people have been killed.

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