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OIC Foreign Ministers Raise Concerns Over Insurgent Violence in Southern Thailand

  • Ron Corben

Foreign ministers attending a meeting of the Organization of the Islamic Conference have raised concerns over continuing violence in Thailand's largely southern Muslim provinces. The Thai government has responded to a recent wave of bombings by directing the army commander to oversee the region's security.

In the past, the Organization of the Islamic Conference has been critical of Thailand's efforts to end Islamic militant violence in three largely Muslim provinces in the country's south. More than 1,300 people have died in the region in the past two years.

But on Friday, Thai Foreign Minister Kanthathi Suphamongkhon said that, at this week's OIC foreign ministers' meeting in Azerbaijan, the delegates merely raised their concern about a recent rash of bombings.

"The OIC was concerned about the latest situation in Thailand, because it was just after bombings in the southern part of Thailand. So, when the conference started, there was a concern about the use of violence," he said.

At least two people died and 25 were injured when insurgents recently attacked government installations in the south.

Speaking to journalists, Kantathi said Thailand told the OIC it is looking to resolve the insurgency by addressing a range of factors.

"We want to solve the problem in a comprehensive way, looking into the educational, the economic opportunities, especially the recognition of diversity, and be sensitive to diversity and having diversity work in favor of unity," he said.

The government has created economic development and education support programs in the region, which is one of the poorest areas in the country. But human rights groups have criticized the security forces for being heavy-handed in dealing with security. Some activists say the forces have killed suspected insurgents without trial.

Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra appointed the Thai army commander, General Sonthi Boonyaratglin, to directly oversee security, instead of the Justice Ministry.

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