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Situation Tense in Southern Thailand Following Renewed Violence

  • Heda Bayron
  • Ron Corben

Reporter Ron Corben is in southern Thailand just two days after the brutal killing of two Thai marines by unidentified assailants. This was latest violence to hit the restive, predominantly Muslim region. VOA's Heda Bayron in Hong Kong started by asking him to describe the security situation on the ground.

CORBEN: While the situation here Friday appears to be quiet, people that we spoke to did say the situation remains very tense, especially after the killing of two Marines just two days ago.

Also this morning there was a report of a bombing in Narathiwat. The Minister to the Prime Minister's Office, speaking at a press conference this morning, said that the government was pursuing a dual track. One of economic development but also to emphasize the use of law enforcement. One of the things he did acknowledge was that the elements, even if he described them as a minority, have been very effective in creating what he called a terror campaign and that, he said, is "unacceptable for us as a nation".

As we drove past, many shops were closed; could have been because people were at Friday prayers, but there have been threats by the insurgents against people opening their stalls on Friday. The mosques that we passed were busy. There were many people going to Friday prayers.

Security is tight across the region - there are a lot of roadblocks guarded by the military. It's estimated up to 20,000 soldiers have been based here to bring the situation under control.

BAYRON: Could you give us a background on the origins of this conflict?

CORBEN: The origins probably date back to about 100 years ago or so when Thailand took over three key areas of Malaysia.

It's gone through several phases where separatists against the Bangkok government have tried to fight for a separatist state or to be part of Malaysia.

It reached a quite bad period in the 1970s and 80s. But the government, through a process of negotiations was able to reach a settlement with the separatist groups.

Under new security arrangements, a certain degree of peace had been brought here through the 1990s.

The latest violence really blew up in January 2004 when there was an attack on an army depot. Since then, there's been something like more than 1,000 people have died in the latest insurgency and there are concerns that it could be ongoing for some time.