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Southern Thai insurgents trying to draw world attention:Thai Gen

Written by: Staff
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Bangkok Jun 21 (UNI) Militants in south Thailand want to involve the global Muslim community and the United Nations for a political resolution of their violent separatist campaign, Thai Army chief and coup leader Sonthi Boonyaratkalin said here.

Delivering a special lecture on the insurgencey in the south of the country at the National Defence College, the army chief said Bangkok needs closer ties with the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) to foil the militants' plan.

We should proceed with making friends with Malaysia, the OIC's president, Turkey, the OIC's secretary-general, and Saudi Arabia.

We have to convince them if we are to stall (the separatists' plan to internationalise their cause), ''he said.

According to General Sonthi, who led last September's military takeover in Bangkok, insurgents in Thailand's southern border Muslim-majority region plan to kill 1,000 people annually to attract world attention, especially from Muslim nations.

General Sonthi, the first Muslim to head Thailand's armed forces, added that during his meeting with OIC representatives who were in Thailand earlier this year, he was able to alert them to the militants' designs.

More than 2,200 people have been killed since the outbreak of separatist violence in early 2004 in the three southern provinces of Narathiwat, Pattani and Yala bordering Malaysia.

The militants have stepped up attacks on government primary schools in the region, torching school premises, gunning down teachers and ambushing security personnel on their way to protect the schools.

Political commentators have noted that the schools are being targeted as part of an insurgent strategy to 'Islamise' the region.

''It is obvious the insurgents are trying to close all government-run schools as part of their plan to turn the region into an Islamic state,'' said the popular Thai language daily 'Thai Rath' in an editorial.

''If all state-run schools are shut down, these children will have no choice but to enter Islamic religious schools, where they may be indoctrinated with wrongful ideas,'' it added.

UNI

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