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Thailand Steps Up Search for Killers of Two Marines


Thai security forces have widened the search for the killers of two Marines beaten to death in the restive south of the country last week. Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has vowed to bring the killers to justice and bring peace to the mostly-Muslim southern provinces.

Thai authorities on Sunday issued arrest warrants for five more suspects in last week's killings of two Marines in southern Narathiwat province, bringing the total number of those sought to 18.

Police have already detained two people in connection with the deaths.

Also in a pre-dawn raid Saturday, more than 200 troops and security personnel swept through Tanyong Limo village, where the killings took place, to search for those responsible.

The two Marines were stabbed to death Wednesday by villagers who blamed them for a shooting at a local teashop the previous night in which two civilians died. The Thai military says the two Marines were in fact investigating the incident.

Retired General Vira Sintiwongsanond, who oversees an aid project for families affected by violence in the region, says separatists deceived the villagers into believing the Marines were involved in the shooting.

"The two marines has [sic] been in the area and helped the people there. Some terrorists, some youngsters that try to make the misunderstanding between the villagers and the official, so that they cause the casualty," he said. "It's very, very sad."

Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, in his weekly radio address Saturday, said he had ordered tough action against what he called the "cruel and inhuman people" responsible for the killings.

The Thai government has implemented special security measures in the South. Minister to the Prime Minister's Office Suranand Vejjajiva, in Narathiwat province to oversee investigations, says the law will be fully applied.

"We have to enforce the law; we have to enforce the law to create peace; we have to enforce the law to protect the rights of the citizens," said Mr. Suranand.

The latest unrest in the south began in January 2004 and has claimed more than 1,000 lives.

Thailand's three southern provinces are home to most of the country's Muslim population and authorities blame the attacks on Islamic separatists.

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