- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 4, 2004

BANGKOK — Ten persons, including nine Buddhists, were killed over 24 hours in Thailand’s mainly Muslim south in a spate of violence after the deaths of 87 detained Muslims last week, police said yesterday.

A policeman, two state railway workers, a salesman and a former official were fatally shot yesterday, and a Buddhist monk from Songkhla province was in critical condition after being shot by a man on a motorcycle.

Police said five other persons were killed Wednesday.

More than half of the killings occurred in Narathiwat province, where 78 Muslims suffocated or were crushed to death after they were piled into military trucks last week following a demonstration in the town of Tak Bai. Six others were fatally shot by security forces at that demonstration and three more drowned.

A 24-year-old motorcycle salesman from Pattani was killed in neighboring Yala province around midday yesterday by two gunmen on a motorcycle after two railway workers were fatally shot in Narathiwat province.

A 61-year-old former district official was gunned down at his Pattani province fruit plantation early yesterday, and a policeman was killed in a gun attack in a neighboring province.

On Wednesday, gunmen broke into a police sergeant’s house in Songkhla province and fatally shot him. A 75-year-old woman and her 39-year-old son were killed in a separate shooting at their grocery store in Narathiwat.

In the same province on Wednesday a 40-year-old man was killed during an attack that left his 15-year-old son injured, and police found the body of an unidentified man in his late 30s who had been fatally shot.

“The motive is believed to be linked to the ongoing violence in the south and police are investigating,” said police Col. Maitree Saengarun.

Police said nine of the dead were Buddhists and the former district official was a Muslim.

The killings followed the beheading of a Buddhist village leader in the south on Tuesday. That killing was claimed as revenge for the Muslims who died at Tak Bai.

The 4th Army commander in charge of the south, Lt. Gen. Pisarn Wattanawongkeeree, was transferred to another post this week for failing to stem the unrest in the south of the mainly Buddhist kingdom.

A long-running separatist insurgency flared anew in the south in January. The latest killings, including the reported death of a man who had his throat slashed in Yala on Tuesday, bring this year’s death toll to more than 480.

Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai, meanwhile, played down a U.N. warning to its staff to be extra vigilant.

“We can still confirm that we can provide high security to officials, diplomats and international staff,” he told reporters.

Analysts have warned that the custody deaths could spark an escalation in violence, and some fear the attacks could spread to Bangkok, the national capital.

Revered King Bhumibol Adulyadej made a rare intervention last weekend, calling for more restraint from troops dealing with the unrest.

Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, facing his most serious crisis to date, ordered an independent inquiry into the Tak Bai detention deaths amid growing international condemnation. It is scheduled to report its findings by Dec. 2.

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