Policeman gunned down in Thailand


Sun, Jun 20, 2004 - Page 5

Gunmen killed a policeman and a bomb wounded three police officers in Thailand's Muslim south yesterday as Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra vowed to crack down on suspected Muslim militants and promised more aid for the region.

Unidentified assailants armed with M-16 automatic rifles shot Muslim policeman Aran Santakor, 31, as he walked to work in the province of Pattani, Major Waiyawit Nopparut at Muang district police station told reporters.

The death is the latest in a wave of violence that has killed more than 250 people since January.

Separately, three policemen were wounded yesterday as they investigated an explosion that partly destroyed a rest house in a park in the neighboring province of Yala.

"A booby trap device exploded at the park at around 11am. Three police officers who were inspecting the scene were injured when a second booby trap exploded five minutes later," Yala Governor Boonyasit Suwannarat said. "We believe it was the work of people who want to cause unrest in southern Thailand."

Despite sending in thousands of troops and promising millions of dollars in development aid, the government has failed to stop the violence in the region, home to a fifth of Thailand's 7.5 million Muslims.

Thaksin said yesterday his government was working hard to bring peace and development to an area plagued by more than 600 violent incidents in the four southernmost provinces bordering Malaysia since Jan. 4, when gunmen raided an army camp and stole 400 guns, many of them M-16s.

"The government has intensified all development projects. All ministries involved have started implementing their projects," Thaksin said in his weekly radio address.

"Many more projects are to come because I have given an order that within 30 days, they have to be done quickly," he said. "We need to act quickly on many things, including job creation as well as security. It cannot continue like this. It has been very long already."

Thaksin vowed this month to "go on the offensive," giving security forces 30 days to halt the violence, but attacks have persisted.