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Insurgents Step Up Attacks in Southern Thailand


Thailand's Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra says insurgents have stepped up their use of force in the country's restive south, and his newly appointed Muslim armed forces commander is reviewing strategies to address the development. The prime minister's remarks follow several deadly attacks in which half a dozen people have been killed.

Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra says the latest attacks in Thailand's southernmost provinces show a change of tactics by insurgents.

"Definitely, they are trying to use more force. They are trying to kill and confiscate weapons," he said.

Mr. Thaksin made the remarks Thursday before flying to the south, one day after an attack on a military post in Narathiwat Province.

On the same day, an unidentified man was found beheaded in neighboring Yala Province. A note on his body said the murder was in retaliation for the arrest of innocent villagers in the region.

Thai authorities have arrested more than a dozen people recently in Narathiwat, after two marines were tortured to death there while villagers blocked security forces from entering. The marines were investigating a drive-by shooting that the villagers blamed on security forces.

Mr. Thaksin said that despite the latest attacks, the government is still seeking to appease the people of the predominantly Muslim south, who harbor long-standing resentments against the central government of mostly Buddhist Thailand.

"We will spend most of our efforts to bring the understanding and the development and the better education and employment for the majority of the people," the prime minister said.

The Thai prime minister this month appointed the first-ever Muslim commander of the armed forces. The appointment is seen as aimed at defusing the nearly two-year old insurgency in the south, where some groups want to separate from the rest of the country to recreate a 19th century Muslim sultanate.

General Sonthi Boonyaratkasin Thursday inspected the scene of the latest attack and warned his soldiers to adjust their strategies in view of recent incidents.

Mr. Thaksin also announced that officials would begin issuing electronic identification cards in the south to help pinpoint possible attackers and prevent them from fleeing the area.

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