Thursday, August 23, 2012

Cambodian Muslims not involved in south Thailand violence: army chief

Most Cambodian Muslims living in the deep South of Thailand have no connection with insurgents in the predominantly Muslim region, and are simply job-seekers who have fled poverty in search of better lives, Thai Army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha said yesterday.

Prayuth's statement contradicted Deputy Prime Minister Yuthasak Sasiprapha's earlier comment that many Muslims from Cambodia did not return home after travelling to the deep South, suggesting that they might be involved in the ongoing violence there.

Prayuth said only some 30-100 Muslims from Cambodia entered Thailand monthly. The figure varied according to the season, he said. Larger numbers entered during months when religious activities took place, such as Dahwah missionary work, he said. Some Muslims from Cambodia entered Thailand during other periods in search of work, he said.

"That's normal. I don't think they have any connection with violence in the deep South," Prayuth said. "It's about poverty, as they want to seek jobs in predominantly Muslim regions, including Malaysia, where they can obtain higher incomes than in their home country."

Nonetheless, authorities would keep eye on them since immigration records show that many of them do not return home.

Thai authorities have been especially sensitive to the movement of Muslims inside the Kingdom since violence erupted in the deep South in early 2004, killing thousands of people in the past eight years. No specific group has claimed responsibility. The government has pointed to separatists, but a solution to the violence remains elusive.

Meanwhile, Burmese national Chali Sinorat was shot dead yesterday in Narathiwat's Sungai Kolok district while using a motorbike to herd his cows into an enclosure.

In Narathiwat's Rangae district, an ambush killed a ranger and injured other two villagers while they were on the way to Ban Kujing Lupah. The dead ranger was Sgt-Major Bang-ern Phanyoo, 39. Injured were Nisoh Eduereh, 42, and Somchit, family name unknown.

Rangae district official Suriya Ahwaekuji and six security volunteers were targeted by roadside bombs as they rushed to inspect the earlier incident in Ban Kujing Lupah.

Three bombs went off within 15 seconds when their pickup truck passed into the area, but nobody was hurt.

Police said the two incidents in Rangae district were related and might have been committed by the same group of insurgents.-Asia News Network (August 22, 2012)

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