Soldiers help fan unrest in Thai south: separatists
KUALA LUMPUR - Soldiers have helped fan deadly unrest in southern Thailand, a separatist spokesman was quoted as saying Friday.
"There have been instances where militants were blamed for 'tahan pran's' misdeeds," Abu Najhan was quoted as saying in Malaysia's The Star newspaper.
He said 'tahan pran' are undisciplined Thai soldiers who usually sport long hair.
"'Tahan pran' are troublemakers," Najhan was quoted as saying.
The newspaper identified him as the executive member of the Patani United Liberation Organisation and said he was also speaking for four other separatist groups.
Thailand's army-installed Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont said recently that Malaysia had helped the kingdom make some progress in opening talks with Islamic separatists along their shared border.
But Thai government officials have long admitted they do not know exactly whom to talk to. The insurgents never claim responsibility for their attacks or make any specific demands.
An older generation of rebel leaders have expressed a willingness to talk, but have shown little control over the young fighters on the ground.
"The government has been unable to identify the leadership of the insurgency. Indeed, it is not clear that there even exists an overall leadership capable of controlling the various groups committing the violence," are port by the International Crisis Group, an independent group of researchers working to resolve conflict, said Thursday.
It said Thailand must balance a military response with ongoing efforts to launch peace talks.
Surayud and Malaysian counterpart Abdullah Ahmad Badawi agreed last month to boost cooperation in a bid to end separatist unrest in the south of the majority Buddhist kingdom.
Malaysia has tightened border security since the leaders met but despite their improved cooperation, violence has worsened.
Southern Thailand, which was once an autonomous Malay sultanate, has a long history of separatist unrest. The latest conflict erupted three years ago and has claimed about 2,000 lives.