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Bomb Attacks Target Southern Thailand

A series of attacks in Thailand's southern provinces has left at least three dead and dozens wounded. New bomb attacks in recent days indicate there has been no let up in the violent insurgency in the region.

Malaysia's state-run news agency, Bernama, has reported that more than 100 Thai Muslims fled across the border to escape the violence, and that they say Thai troops entered their village and shot the headman.

The Thai Parliament recently approved a new government emergency decree, which allows detention without trial. But that and other tough measures by security forces do not appear to have eased the separatist insurgency in the south.

"After the enforcement of the emergency decree, the climate of fear has increased," explained Sunai Pasuk, with the U.S. group Human Rights Watch. He says the emergency powers have not eased the community's fears over security.

"What has been said in the market, in the tea shop, in the mosque, all indicate that the local population do not believe that the government is capable of protecting anyone," he added.

More than 800 people have been killed since January 2004, when Muslim insurgents began attacking government and military facilities and attacking civil servants. The bloodshed is concentrated in Narathiwat, Yala, and Pattani provinces, where most residents are Muslim.

They have long complained of discrimination in Thailand, which is predominately Buddhist, and the region is among the poorest in the country.

Human rights groups say the national security forces have carried out extrajudicial killings and other abuses as the government has cracked down on the insurgency.

Mr. Pasuk says the government has failed to address reports of human rights abuses.

"The government must apply to the due process of law instead of resorting heavily to special powers endorsed by the emergency decree - which allows the government to arrest anyone, to detain anyone for an extended period," he said.

Thailand has faced several insurgent movements since Bangkok annexed the three southern provinces - then an independent sultanate - a century ago.

In the 1970s, separatists began a campaign of low-level guerrilla warfare, but it ended more than 15 years ago, after the government negotiated with the militants and granted amnesty to many rebels.