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Death toll from Thai unrest on the rise

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Latest update : 2008-03-21

Southern Thailand is closing in on five years of attacks by Muslim separatists against the army and the Hindu minority. The brutal killings have reached unprecedented levels with nearly 3000 people killed since 2004. (Report: C.Payen)

The death toll from an insurgency in Thailand's Muslim south topped 3,000 on Wednesday, police said, highlighting the government's failure to stem the unrest after more than four years.
  
A wave of deadly attacks across the violence-wracked south killed five people on Wednesday alone, as Thailand's new government struggles to come to grips with the separatist violence that erupted in early 2004 in the region bordering Malaysia.
  
Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej will hold an emergency meeting on the insurgency Friday, while Interior Minister Chalerm Yubamrung admitted Tuesday he had "no idea" how to curb unrest, which has claimed 3,004 lives.
  
Srawut Aree, a professor of Muslim studies at Bangkok's Chulalongkorn University, said the government has made little progress in easing the violence because it has failed to identify any of the militancy's leadership.
  
"The problem is the government still cannot recognise real actors behind violent attacks," Srawut said.
  
"Militants have never issued statements or claimed responsibility. The government still does not have a clear picture of militants," he said.
  
While the previous military government launched a raft of peace-building measures, including an apology to Muslims for past abuses, almost daily shootings and bomb attacks continued to rock the region.
  
Two militants shot dead a 72-year-old Buddhist grocer Wednesday at his store in Yala, one of three provinces roiled by violence, police said.
  
The two men fled, but were stopped at a nearby military checkpoint where they were killed in a 10-minute gun fight, they added.
  
One of the men was identified as Sunawa Yugo, believed to be a leading militant with a 500,000-baht (16,000-dollar) bounty on his head. He was wanted on a national security arrest warrant, police said.
  
Also in Yala, a Muslim defence volunteer was killed in a drive-by shooting, while a suspected rebel was killed in nearby Pattani province in a shoot-out with army rangers.
  
The latest attacks came after the violence took a dramatic turn last weekend when a car bomb exploded outside a luxury hotel that had been considered a safe zone for visiting political and business leaders.
  
Two people were killed and 13 others injured Saturday when the car bomb exploded in the hotel parking lot in Pattani.
  
Samak on Tuesday vowed to put resolving the unrest atop his political agenda.
  
But the premier was quick to say his government would not hold peace talks with separatist rebels fighting the insurgency, making a U-turn from the previous government, which offered to open talks with the separatists.
  
The proposal for talks was never taken up by the shadowy insurgents, who have increasingly resorted to brutal killings such as beheadings and burning bodies, often leaving charred corpses on the road for public displays.
  
The southernmost corner of the kingdom was an autonomous Malay sultanate until mainly Buddhist Thailand annexed the region a century ago.

Date created : 2008-03-20

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