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Southern Thailand Marks Year of Violence

Thai soldiers at Krue Se mosque (File photo)
Security was tight in parts of Thailand's troubled south, on the anniversary of a clash at a historic mosque between Thai security forces and Muslim militants. The anniversary comes several days after a government report accuses senior commanders of using excessive force in the incident.

Tensions were heightened in Thailand's predominantly Muslim south Thursday as residents remembered a series of clashes one year ago in which more than one hundred mostly local youths were killed.

On that day, hundreds of young men attacked dozens of security posts in Thailand's three southernmost provinces. In the deadliest incident, 32 were killed by security forces after taking refuge in the historic Krue Se mosque in Pattani city.

The incident sparked outrage among local residents.

The independent National Reconciliation Commission this week issued a previously-censored report saying that local commanders used excessive force and should have tried to negotiate before attacking.

A member of the commission, southern parliamentarian Surin Pitsuwan says the release of the report has eased tensions.

"People feel more confident in the transparency of the work of the National Reconciliation Committee and that is very, very important," said Surin Pitsuwan.

Southern Muslim leaders praised the report but said the government needs to do more to ease tensions, such as reducing the large military presence in the south.

The commission also released a report on another deadly incident. Last October seven protesters were shot to death during a demonstration and 78 others suffocated to death while being transported to detention centers.

The report accused senior commanders of negligence in allowing the detainees to be packed into trucks in what was termed a hasty and reckless manner.

More than 600 people have been killed since the violence began in January of last year with an attack on a military barracks in which four soldiers were killed.

Mr. Surin says the Reconciliation Commission, by listening to the grievances of people in the south, hopes to begin the healing process.

"There is a lot of hope that the commission will be able to advise the government to adopt a more conciliatory approach to the people down there," he said.

Thai officials blame the violence in part on conflicts among criminals and corrupt officials. But they say that some of it is caused by Muslim militants seeking to revive a 30 year-old separatist movement in a region that has long felt alienated from mainly Buddhist Thailand.