Pattani, Thailand- Unknown assailants attacked an Islamic
boarding school and mosque with war weapons in Yala province, part of
Thailand’s troubled deep South, in a dawn assault that left 16
injured, police said.
Police said the unknown assailants used M-79 rocket-propelled
grenade launchers to fire on the school in Yaha district of Yala, 760
kilometres south of Bangkok, an area that is already under curfew.

The attack injured 16 people, most of whom were teenage students,
said a Yaha police officer who asked to remain anonymous.

A grenade was also fired on a nearby mosque shortly after the
school attack, but no one was injured.

Yaha has been under a night to dawn curfew since last month, when
suspected Muslim militants attacked a passenger van in broad
daylight, killing eight Thai-Buddhists, including three women, but
spared the life of the driver, a Thai-Muslim.

Shortly after that attack, which outraged Thai-Buddhist
nationwide, unknown assailants on March 17 attacked an Islamic
boarding school in nearby Sabayoi village of Songkhla province,
killing two students.

The assailants threw grenades into the school and strafed the
building with automatic rifle fire, killing two boys, aged 12 and 14,
and wounding another eight, said Sabayoi polcie said.

Police blamed that attack on a “third hand,” suggesting that
Muslim militants had attacked the school themselves to stir up
religious hatred in the area.

To date no one has been arrested for that attack.

Thursday’s attack in Yaha was the latest in hundreds of acts of
violence over the past three years, increasingly pitting Thai-Muslims
against Thai-Buddhists in the majority Muslim deep South, comprising
Narathiwat, Pattani and Yala provinces and parts of neighbouring
Songkhla.

A long-simmering separatist struggle in Thailand’s deep South took
a turn for the worse in January 4, 2004, after Muslim militants stole
300 rifles from an army weapons depot in Narathiwat.

Since then an estimated 2,100 people have died in government
crackdowns, revenge killings and increasingly brutal attacks on the
minority Thai-Buddhist population in the area.

Attacks on Thai-Buddhists have intensified in recent months
despite efforts by current Thai Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont to
adopt a more conciliatory approach to the conflict than his
predecessor Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted by a military coup
September 19.

Once an independent Islamic sultanate called Pattani, the region
was first conquered by Bangkok in 1786 but only came under the direct
rule of the Thai bureaucracy in 1902.

The south’s separatist struggle has been fuelled by the local
population’s sense of religious and cultural alienation from the
predominantly Buddhist Thai state.

More than 80 per cent of the 2 million people in the
three-province region describe themselves as Muslims of ethnic Malay
descent who have closer cultural affinities with neighbouring
Malaysia than with the predominantly Buddhist Thai kingdom.

© 2006 – dpa German Press Agency

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