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Thai Leader Says Progress Made Against Violence in South

  • Ron Corben

Thai Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont says some progress is being made in reducing violence in the country's southern provinces, which have been wracked by Muslim separatist violence. Mr. Surayud made the comment while calling for greater cooperation among Southeast Asian nations that have suffered from Muslim terrorism. Ron Corben reports from Bangkok.

Thai Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont says he hopes the upcoming Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Australia will give attention to terrorism in states belonging to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN.

Mr. Surayud, speaking to reporters before his departure for the September summit, says terrorism is the main security issue currently facing the region.

"ASEAN as a whole is quite concerned with the terrorism, which has become a key security issue in the region," he said.

Mr. Surayud adds that individual countries are finding it more difficult to cope with the rising tide of violence.

"We know that this kind of threat is not local - it's a globalized situation at the moment. So it depends a lot on the cooperation among various countries worldwide to cope with this threat, otherwise we will not be able to cope," said Mr. Surayud.

A separatist campaign in the largely Muslim provinces of Southern Thailand has claimed the lives of more 2,400 people since early 2004. Five were killed in a series of attacks by suspected separatists just this week, including the shooting dead of a 67-year-old construction worker and the burning of his body.

Earlier this week, the U.S.-based group Human Rights Watch reported that separatist groups in the south have vowed to fight on "without any compromise" with the Thai state. The group and others say the separatists are aiming for a state independent from largely Buddhist Thailand.

Still, Mr. Surayud says the state is making some progress against the separatists.

"On the Thai side, we already make some progress in terms of reducing the level of violence in the Southern part of the country, according to the aggressive operation on the government side," he said.

In recent months, Thai security forces have conducted sweeps across the region, making widespread arrests of alleged separatists and charging them with attacks on civilians and local officials, teachers and Buddhist monks.

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