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Thailand's south gropes to walk out darkness of violence
Last Updated(Beijing Time):2004-05-31 09:33
The first time in a wholemonth, police corporal Ibrahim Karina has walked out of the hospital since he was slashed and underwent more than 200 stitchesin the most vehement clashes between unidentified insurgents and government troops on April 28 in the Muslim-dominated South.

A pink scar wound some 10 centimeters long over the lower part of his left face and forked to the upper lip and jaw of the 33-year-old corporal.

At dawn a month ago, a group of machete-shielding men sneaked into the check point and slashed Ibrahim and the other police. Both of them just got up and Ibrahim was preparing for a morning prayer in the Krue Se Mosque some 200 meters away.

Though firing two shots and killing one, Ibrahim went out in a pool of blood while his colleague was killed by the attackers' hackling.

Telling his suffering to reporters outside the check point on Friday, the husky corporal about 1.80 meters high took off his capand pull over the black police T-shirt, showing more pink or purple scars bulging over his skull, arm and back.

The wounds netting over Ibrahim's body were not the only thing that hasn't fully recovered from the April 28 clashes, which claimed a high casualty of 108 on the insurgents' side and five onthe government side.

Though almost time for mid-day praying, there were only a few heavy-armed soldiers, disengaged vendors and pedestrians dressed in a Muslim way idling around the Krue Se Mosque, an ancient architecture established some 400 years ago and a holy site in local Muslims' hearts.

The April 28 clashes ended late that day with the government troops stormed the old brick building and killed the last batch of32 insurgents holed up inside the mosque hall around 60 square meters large.

The army had to take action so as to end the clashes before night falling down and more suspicious bystanders being incited todeteriorate the violence, said the military adviser to the Fourth Army commander Maj. Gen. Krai-rerk Khantongkum when reviewing thatday's situation with a group of foreign journalists.

The Fourth Army is in charge of the Muslim-dominated South including provinces of Pattani, Yala, Narathiwat and Songkhla, alllie some 1,000 kilometers south of Bangkok and close to Malaysia to the south.

Despite of the official explanation of the battle over Krue Se,the authority troops heavy-handed self-defense has incurred doubt,question and even criticism from a broad group of media, right organizations and local people.

"Locals said there was rarely any negotiation had been conducted at the scene before the troops firing at Krue Se," Pattani Central Mosque's Chairman Usaw Sarmae told Xinhua.

If negotiation could be held, the next thing would be the use of tear gas to drive out the insurgents rather than killing them all, regretted the 66-year-old Imam. "The use of force is a littlebit too much," said he.

In the past five months, martial law has been implemented and local press has reported reinforcement sent into the region since Jan. 4 when unidentified armed men simultaneously torched down 20 schools, looted more than 300 weapons and killed 4 soldiers in Narathiwat.

The tough measures, however, didn't seem to work with the attackers still at large and the almost daily hit-and-run violenceexacerbating into the April 28 turmoil.

"The government made a mistake not get we (religious leaders) involved," said Usaw. "If they asked for help, we would be happy to help it out."

It's not the first time that local Muslims have complained the government ignored them on local issues.

A group of Islamic leaders from the South in mid February announced suspension of cooperation with the authority in solving local problems in protest against harsh policies adopted by the government.

The history of resistance and discontentment could be traced back several hundreds years ago, when the then Pattani kingdom underwent a couple of conquests by and rebellions against the Siamkingdom.

The deep south composed of several sultanese finally fell into direct rules of Bangkok in 1902 and since then witnessed incessantviolence in the high time of separatists movement until late 1980's and that created by gangsters grouped with remaining separatistsin the following years.

Besides the plaguing violence, the South, home to most of Thailand's Muslim dragged behind other regions in the country economically and culturally.

Locals complained they were neglected and repulsed out of political life in various ways such as less high position for Muslim in local government and their mother-tongue Yawi, a dialectMalay, not allowed to be officially used.

Meanwhile, students graduating from local Islamic schools were less competitive on the employment market and criminal activities including weapon smuggling and drug dealing grew rampant in the region.

The Muslim culture hasn't got enough attention and respect and that's the roots of the unrest in the south, the sarong-dressed Ahamad told reporters in fluent English. He used to study Islamismin a university in Libya.

No matter whether Ahamad's judgment was right or not, the government's solution seemed to drive nowhere with the insurgents'identities yet to be clarified and fresh violence occurring almostdaily even after April 28.

The government first pointed finger to separatists and then switched to interest groups, Mafia and corrupt politicians to be responsible for the violence, anxiously denying local situation was related to either religious conflicts or international terrorism infiltration.

At the same time, both provincial governor, police chief, Fourth Army officials and district chiefs interviewed by Xinhua agreed that insurgents of the April 28 clashes were a new group under the influence of some religious teachers' "bad teaching". But no one gave answer as to whom the religious leader were, what's their motives and where's their whereabout.

Police corporal Ibrahim didn't think the insurgents were religiously motivated. "I'm a Muslim, but they tried to kill me too," said he, whose home is just a few hundreds away from the scene of attack.

The Fourth Army also confirmed a yet-to-be held talk between the commander Pisarn Wattanawongkhiri and a self-claimed leader ofthe umbrella split organization Bersatu, which coordinated severallocal separatists groups.

While the to-be-held "peace talk" becoming a hot topic of Thai media, the latest violence occurred on early Saturday reported oldvillager decapitated in Narathiwat.

It might be Imam Usaw who best summarized the southern situation."The major problem is that nobody knows who's behind allthese," he said.

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