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Insurgents Threaten To Burn Bangkok In Revenge

Thai Muslim Insurgents Threaten To Burn Bangkok In Revenge


by Richard S. Ehrlich

BANGKOK, Thailand -- Suicide Muslim insurgents threatened to use ''fire and oil'' to ''burn down'' Bangkok in revenge for the deaths of 85 people, including 78 Muslim men who suffocated after Thai security forces crammed them into army trucks, laying them on top of each other.

After the suicide squad announced their warning, two bombs wounded at least 18 people, 15 of them policemen, in the southern province of Yala on Friday (Oct. 29) but it was unclear who planted the explosives.

"I am not prejudiced against Muslims," Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra said in a nationwide televised speech on Friday (Oct. 29).

He tried to convince worried countrymen, foreign diplomats and Middle East trading partners that Buddhist-majority Thailand welcomed all religious beliefs, including Islam, and promised he would investigate Thai "army rangers" involved in the 78 suffocation deaths.

The prime minister's plea for understanding came after Muslim insurgents vowed revenge.

"Their capital city [Bangkok] will be burned," declared the shadowy Pattani United Liberation Organization (PULO) after the suffocation deaths in southern Thailand were revealed by Thai officials on Tuesday (Oct. 26).

"Our weapons are fire and oil, fire and oil, fire and oil," the small, decades-old separatist organization warned on its website.

PULO's undated threat -- written in Thai language -- was signed by a new group calling itself "the Suicide Unit of Ramadan Sharia."

"We swear to Allah...their lives will face the same sin that they made...their blood will pour into the land and flow into the river."

PULO praised the 85 Muslims who died on Monday (Oct. 25) as "shahid", or martyrs, and added: "Your blood will not be wasted, but will be recorded in the motherland that we love forever."

Thai newspapers splashed grim photographs of Muslim men with their hands tied behind their backs being loaded into tarpaulin-covered, six-wheeled army trucks for the journey on Monday (Oct. 25) from Narathiwat to nearby Pattani in the south.

Arrested men were forced to lie down on the floor of the large trucks while other detained men were piled on top of them in layers, according to published photographs.

Men at the bottom of the piles suffered a lack of oxygen during the slow journey to the army camp, doctors and survivors said.

"I was laying at the bottom, a man next to me cried out that he could not breathe," said Marudee Ahsae, 30.

"When a soldier heard him, he [the soldier] stomped on people on top of him. That soldier said: 'Now you cry for help. Do you feel pain too? Go to hell. It's payback time'," Mr. Marudee, a detainee with a wounded leg, was quoted as saying in Friday's (Oct. 29) Bangkok Post.

"They were crammed into trucks, some piled on top of each other like animals," the Bangkok Post lamented in a Friday (Oct. 29) editorial headlined: "Tak Bai Will Live in Infamy."

The 78 suffocation deaths occurred after more than 1,500 Muslims staged a violent demonstration on Monday (Oct. 25) demanding police release six Muslim detainees in Tak Bai in Narathiwat province.

Seven Muslims at the demonstration died from bullet wounds after troops retaliated with tear gas, water cannons and live ammunition, officials said.

Security forces arrested 1,300 people at the demonstration and forced them into the army trucks.

"Seventy-eight people were found dead on arrival, in the [army] vans, at the military camp," Justice Ministry pathologist, Dr. Pornthip Rojanasunan, said in an interview on Tuesday (Oct. 26) after examining the dead.

"They showed bleeding in the eyes, in the white part of the eyeballs, and bleeding on the body underneath the skin, only tiny spots of bleeding" which are evidence of "suffocation," said Dr. Pornthip, the respected deputy director of Thailand's Forensic Science Institute.

The insurgents demand autonomy or independence for up to five provinces in the impoverished south, including Narathiwat, Pattani and Yala, amid claims that southern Muslims suffer brutal injustice in Thailand, which is 95 percent Buddhist.

The government denies most of their charges and has experimented with various ways of crushing the rebellion, in an haphazard effort to integrate minority ethnic Malay Muslims into Thai society.

"If the possibility of a terrorist attack on targets in Bangkok or other parts of Thailand outside the Muslim-majority southern provinces used to be a taboo subject, then perhaps now is the time for society to shed its false sense of security and fatalistic complacency," the Nation newspaper said in a Friday (Oct. 29) editorial.

"The first step is for the government to tighten security, including stationing visibly armed and well-trained troopers at public places -- from bus terminals, railway stations and the airport, to government offices and public buildings," the Nation said.

In almost daily, hit-and-run executions, Muslim insurgents have killed Thai security forces, Buddhist clergy, businessmen, plantation workers, teachers, government employees and others in the south.

A bomb exploded on Thursday (Oct. 28) night in Narathiwat province, killing a Malaysian tourist and injuring a Thai female pedestrian.

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Richard S. Ehrlich, a freelance journalist who has reported news from Asia for the past 26 years, is co-author of the non-fiction book, "HELLO MY BIG BIG HONEY!" -- Love Letters to Bangkok Bar Girls and Their Revealing Interviews. His web page is www.geocities.com/glossograph/


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