Monday, October 25, 2004

Riots in Thailand

Riots in Thailand:

Dozens of people have been injured in clashes between Thai security forces and hundreds of protesters who tried to storm a police station in Thailand's troubled Muslim-majority south.

Thai officials used tear gas and water cannon to break up the protest that turned violent after 3,000 people spent all day camped outside a police station demanding the release of six officials.

Fourteen members of the security forces were injured in gunbattles and clashes and up to 30 demonstrators, according to Thai officials. More than 300 demonstrators were arrested.

The crowd were angered by the arrest of officials by police in the southern province of Narathiwat for allegedly falsely reporting the theft of a small number of guns.

Tensions are already running high in the area where a separatist insurgency across the south has claimed more than 325 lives this year.

"I decided to stop the demonstration by firing water and tear gas against them because I could not allow the violence to happen," senior military commander Lieutenant General Pisarn Wattanawongkiri said in a television interview.

Thai premier Thaksin Shinawatra made an emergency trip to the area with two senior cabinet members.

"You cannot come and say they (the officials) are innocent and that the police have to release them, you have to wait until the investigation is over," he told reporters before his departure.

The military ordered a curfew in the three worst-hit southern provinces, Yala, Narathiwat and Pattani, from 10:00pm to 6:00am in the wake of the violence.

The insurgency in the Muslim-majority south of predominantly Buddhist Thailand has continued sporadically for decades and sparked into life again in January with a raid on an army depot.

Militants killed four soldiers and looted hundreds of weapons.

Since then attacks aimed mostly at officials and security forces have continued almost daily.

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