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Aree says South strategy flawed

Interior Minister Aree Wong-araya has urged police and military security services to reconsider their strategy following the latest wave of coordinated bombings, arsons and shootings in four southern border provinces which killed at least seven and wounded more than 50 people on Sunday.

The cabinet's only Muslim minister said security agencies were cautious to act upon intelligence information for fear that any pre-emptive actions could inflame the already tenuous relations between Chinese and Thai Buddhists and Muslim majority in the deep south as the bomb blasts were timed to coincide with the start of the Chinese New Year festivals.

According to a military spokesman, the insurgents were trying to scare ethnic Chinese who celebrate the holiday into fleeing the predominantly Muslim region. Sunday’s onslaught killed at least seven people and wounded 54 people, including four with serious injuries.

The Internal Security Operations Command also reported that suspected militants launched 54 nearly simultaneous attacks on Feb 18 including 29 bomb blasts, 11 arson attacks on government buildings and schools and at least five shooting incidents.

Sunday’s attacks were the first time the insurgents had simultaneously struck all four southern provinces - Yala, Narathiwat, Pattani and Songkhla - where they operate.

Mr Aree condemned the perpetrators as inhumanely cruel, saying that committing such deadly attacks was against religious teachings.

The interior minister told reporters that officials had done their best but they could not prevent the incidents without risks of the intervention turning into a communal confrontation given that suspected militants – many of them were teenagers - posed as customers trying to enter the entertainment venues targeted in the Sunday’s insurgent offensive.

But he stressed that the seriousness of the large-scale violence Sunday night called for a different approach in the government’s counter-insurgency approach.

Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont met with top security officials on Monday and urged heightened security in the area ahead of upcoming public holidays including a Buddhist holiday in March and the Thai New Year known as Songkran, celebrated in mid-April. (TNA)

© Copyright The Post Publishing Public Co., Ltd. 2006
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