Thaksin vows to be tough against killers

Bangkok, September 24:

Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra vowed today that his government would be as tough as necessary to bring to justice the killers of two marines who were taken hostage in the country’s violence-wracked far south. Speaking on his weekly national radio address, Thaksin described the killers — presumed to be Islamic militants — in harsh terms, reflecting widespread indignation at the brutal murders. “The people who create unrest are very cruel and inhuman, they are worse than wild animals. I have to order tough action against these cruel killers and bring them to justice,” Thaksin said. Thaksin also indicated that if necessary, the government would make use of a recently enacted emergency law which suspends some civil liberties, instead of going through standard legal procedures, to combat the southern militants.

Thailand’s three southernmost provinces, Narathiwat, Pattani and Yala — the only ones with Muslim majorities in the Buddhist-dominated country — have been hit by an Islamic separatist insurgency in which more than 1,000 people have died since January last year. The two marines were stabbed to death on Wednesday in Tanyonglimo village in Narathiwat province while being held hostage by residents who accused them of shooting at a local teashop the night before, killing two civilians and wounding three others. The military denied that the men were the shooters, saying they had gone to the area to investigate the incident. Thai authorities said yesterday they had detained two people — a man and a woman — in connection with the killing of the marines.

Arrest warrants were issued on Friday for 11 people, and on Wednesday for two more. “Law enforcement personnel are hunting for the rest to bring them to justice,” regional army spokesman Col Somkuan Saengpataranetr said today. “We will put them all on trial fairly and in a transparent manner,” Col Saengpataranetr said. Professor Chaiwat Satha-anand, a peace advocate and member of the National Reconciliation Commission, said today that security forces did the right thing by trying to negotiate the marines’ release, although the incident ended sadly. Thaksin had recently enacted an emergency law suspending civil liberties if needed.