Tak Bai violence still haunts southerners 8 years after

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BANGKOK, Oct 18 – Southern authorities have been instructed to be on full alert for possible violence in light of the approaching eighth anniversary of the Tak Bai incident in Narathiwat province on 2004 in which at least 85 people were killed, according to a deputy prime minister.

Deputy Prime Minister Yuthasak Sasiprapa said Wednesday that security will be tightened to avoid undesirable incidents as happened in the past.

The Tak Bai violence occurred on Oct 25, 2004 when hundreds of people were arrested in their protest against the arrest of six local men. The arrested protesters were handcuffed and thrown into trucks heading for an army camp in nearby Pattani province. At least 85 of them were found to have suffocated on the vehicles’ arrival at the camp. The incident has been a thorn in the authorities’ side since then.

Gen Yuthasak said that southern insurgents distort facts about the situation in Thailand’s deep South through a website registered in neighbouring Malaysia.

Their purpose is to create misunderstanding among southern people, he said, adding that the Foreign Ministry and National Intelligence Bureau are working closely to solve the problem.

The deputy premier said the National Security Council has almost concluded a revised structure for the Southern Resolution Operations Centre to be submitted to the prime minister for final approval.

Army chief Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha said army units responsible for security are reorganising their personnel in the South in order to collaborate with the police, civilians and people in maintaining peace in the region.

Police forces will be increased since military units cannot be stationed there indefinitely, he said.