Sunday, March 18, 2007

Attack on Thai Muslim School Kills at Least Three Teenagers

Separatist, Islamic terrorists in Southern Thailand have been attacking religious as well as secular schools in Southern Thailand since 2004.

In Thailand, even religious schools are subsidized by the central government, but that may be about to change, because the Thai military claims that some of the Islamic schools are complicit in the violence.

FOX NEWS (3-18-07) reports:

Lt. Gen. Wirot Buacharun, the army commander in charge of the restive provinces, said security forces had recently raided an Islamic school and confiscated an M-16 assault rifle, bullets, a computer containing suspicious material and other documents believed to be linked to the insurgency.

"This leads us to believe that religious schools are involved with the ongoing violence," he said Sunday, adding that he would urge the government to revoke subsidies for the schools or close some of them.

The Islamist terrorists want Muslim parents to remove their children from the government's secular schools, and the terrorism against these secular schools sends the message that only Islamic schools, which until now have been spared violence, are safe.

The BBC News (3-18-07) now reports:

At least three teenage students have been killed in an attack on an Islamic school in southern Thailand, police have said.

They said explosives had been thrown into the school in Songkhla province before the assailants opened fire on the sleeping quarters.

Seven other students were wounded in the attack late on Saturday [3-17-07], which the police blamed on Muslim separatists.

But villagers disputed the police account and later staged a protest.

Hundreds of villagers blocked the road to the school, accusing Thailand's armed forces of carrying out the attack.

Local police chief Thammasak Wasaksiri said he believed Muslim rebels were responsible for the shooting.

"Insurgents always use this trick of attacking Muslim people to instigate villagers and get them to believe that police or soldiers were responsible for the attack," he was quoted as saying by the Associated Press news agency.

On Wednesday, nine people were killed in an attack on a minibus travelling from the neighbouring province of Yala to Songkhla. All the victims were Buddhist, police said. [Full text]

Nearly 300 schools and teachers have been attacked in Thailand according to this September 2006 article about the shooting of a Buddhist teacher who was standing at his blackboard. Forty-four teachers have been targeted by Islamic terrorists in Thailand since 2004. Now teachers are carrying guns to protect themselves and their students, according to the same article.

FOX NEWS (3-18-07) also carries an article about the 3-17-07 attack on the Islamist school and the riot and killings the attack has precipitated in the area:

After the school attack, suspected Muslim insurgents stormed a nearby charcoal factory, killing two Buddhist workers and wounding at least two others. Separately, a Buddhist man riding a motorcycle was gunned down.

Thammasak said police believe Muslim insurgents staged the school attack in an attempt to convince villagers that authorities were responsible and win them over to the insurgents' cause. Villagers, however, refused to believe Muslims were behind the violence and blamed government security forces, he said.

Thai authorities also blamed insurgents for a bombing at a mosque and a grenade attack at a tea shop last Wednesday that killed two Muslims in neighboring Yala province. Those attacks came hours after suspected Muslim insurgents killed eight Buddhist passengers in a commuter van in the same district of Yala, shooting them in the head execution-style.

Thailand is overwhelmingly Buddhist, but the country's far south is predominantly Muslim, and residents of the region have long felt that they are treated like second-class citizens.

The southern Muslim provinces have hundreds of religious Islamic schools, and authorities have accused some of them of harboring insurgents and serving as a training ground for violence.

Lt. Gen. Wirot Buacharun, the army commander in charge of the restive provinces, said security forces had recently raided an Islamic school and confiscated an M-16 assault rifle, bullets, a computer containing suspicious material and other documents believed to be linked to the insurgency.

"This leads us to believe that religious schools are involved with the ongoing violence," he said Sunday, adding that he would urge the government to revoke subsidies for the schools or close some of them.

Drive-by shootings and bombings occur almost daily in Thailand's three Muslim-majority provinces -- Yala, Narathiwat and Pattani -- and increasingly in the neighboring province of Songkhla.

Though Buddhist teachers have been targeted by the violence that flared three years ago, schoolchildren have largely been spared.

Violence in the south has increased since a military-installed government took power in September following a coup that ousted then-Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

Thailand's military imposed a curfew in two Yala districts on Thursday. Army spokesman Col. Akara Thiprot said it was the first time a curfew has been imposed in the region since separatist violence surged in January 2004. [Full text]

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