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Thai Defense Chief Warns of Attacks in Bangkok


Thailand's defense minister warned Thursday of insurgent attacks in Bangkok and urged caution during an upcoming Buddhist holiday.

General Boorawd Somtat says that Muslim separatists from the country's south have been infiltrating universities in Bangkok.

Somtat's warnings come after a series of synchronized attacks over the weekend in the predominantly Muslim, ethnic-Malay south of the country.

Insurgents have not been blamed for attacks in Bangkok but authorities have suggested links between deadly blasts on New Year's Eve and the southern insurgency.

However, Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont Thursday downplayed the likelihood of an attack in Bangkok and reiterated his commitment to a negotiated solution to the crisis. His overtures to insurgents following his appointment last October have so far been met with a spike in violence.

Attacks on Sunday are thought to have targeted ethnic Chinese who were celebrating Lunar New Year. Of the eight killed, three were Chinese.

On Wednesday a large warehouse for rubber products in the southern city of Yala was set on fire, causing more than $11 million in damage. The same day a close associate of Thailand's queen narrowly escaped serious harm when her convoy was attacked on a trip to boost the morale of troops in the restive region.

Thai Buddhists will celebrate the major Buddhist holiday of Makha Bucha next week on March 3.

Separatist violence has claimed nearly 2,000 lives over the past three years.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.