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Thailand Seeking Help from Malaysia in Investigation of Deadly Attack - 2004-01-06


The foreign minister of Thailand was heading to Malaysia to boost cooperation in the investigation of several attacks that left six people dead in the southern Thailand.

Thailand is seeking help from Malaysia in tracking down those responsible for a series of arson and bomb attacks in the southern Thai border provinces. The attacks on Sunday and Monday left six people dead and 21 Thai schools destroyed or damaged. The attackers also stole dozens of guns from a military armory.

The attacks were in Thailand's three southern provinces - Narathiwat, Yala and Pattani, where most of the country's Muslim population lives. The Thai government has imposed a dusk to dawn curfew in the south and has imposed martial law because of fears of further attacks.

So far, no one has claimed responsibility for the attacks. Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has blamed both Muslim militants and what he called military "insiders" for the attacks. He says the attackers are both Thai and Malaysian nationals.

While the government has blamed Muslim groups, they say the motive for the attacks may have been criminal - stealing guns to sell overseas - and not political.

Thai officials think some of the attackers may have crossed into Malaysia.

In a bid to boost cooperation in guarding the border, Thai Foreign Minister, Surakiart Sathirathai, went to Malaysia Tuesday to meet with his Malaysian counterpart, Syed Hamid Albar and Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.

Thai Foreign Ministry spokesman Sihasak Puangketkeow says the talks aimed at stepping up security along the border. "The investigation is going on on the part of the Thai side and we want to exchange information with the Malaysian side," he says. "Perhaps they might have some information that would be helpful to our investigation."

Thailand has faced renewed violence in the southern provinces in the past two years, largely blamed on former Muslim insurgents who have turned to banditry. The region saw a small insurgency two decades ago, but it faded after most separatist groups reconciled with the central government.

Since the violence has resumed some 50 police and soldiers have been killed in incidents that analysts often link to criminal gangs, extortion and smuggling.