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Thailand to Cooperate with UN Probe into Violent Clashes

  • Nancy-Amelia Collins

The Thai government says it will cooperate with a U.N. investigation into a violent clash in the Muslim South last month that left at least 87 people dead. The comment followed remarks by Thailand's king warning the country may fall into ruin unless the violence is stopped.

The U.N. special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary, and arbitrary executions, Philip Alston, says he is "deeply concerned" about last month's incident in the southern Thai town of Tak Bai. A protest by local Muslims turned into a violent clash with security forces that left 87 protesters dead.

In a statement from Geneva, Mr. Alston said he would like to talk to people involved in the Tak Bai incident. Seventy-eight of the 87 dead were crushed or suffocated after security forces jammed them into trucks for transport to detention centers.

Thai government spokesman Jakrapob Penkair says the government is willing to cooperate with any investigation by the United Nations.

"Our standpoint is that if the United Nations feels strongly that this needs to be investigated some more as a lesson for everybody, the Thai government is agreeable, and we would try to accommodate as much as we can," he said.

Prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra was criticized at home and abroad following the Tak Bai tragedy. He was accused of using unnecessary violence to quell the violence in the South.

Thailand's revered monarch, King Bhumibol Adulyadej, made a rare public comment on the southern situation. He told a group of newly-promoted police and army generals that greater cooperation between the security forces was the key to peace in the South. He also said the nation "could fail" unless the violence was stopped.

The monarch rarely becomes publicly involved in political matters, saving his comments for times of acute public turmoil. Although he has no constitutional involvement in the running of the country, he has successfully intervened during past political crises.

The King's remarks followed an appeal for peace made by Queen Sirikit earlier this week, after she returned to Bangkok from a two-month visit to the violence-wracked region.

More than 450 people have died in the violence in the southern provinces since January. The government blames the turmoil on a long dormant Muslim separatist movement that has recently revived.

But Thai Muslim leaders complain that rivalry between the police and military has contributed to the violence.

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