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Military on right track in South 'despite poor equipment'

Army chief Sonthi Boonyaratglin yesterday defended the military's strategy in the deep South, saying the work of security squads was hampered by methodology and poor and inadequate equipment.

Published on July 20, 2007

The general told reporters at a military camp in this border province, where he handed out more than 1,000 bulletproof vests, that his latest field trip was aimed at enhancing troop capacity in the restive region.

He pointed to communications equipment, such as jammers and radios, saying inventories were not the latest models and were running low.

He also backtracked on an earlier statement that the violence in the predominantly Muslim region could spread to Bangkok. He said his earlier comments were misunderstood. The visit came just days after a bomb exploded in the heart of Yala, leaving one police officer burned beyond recognition.

Footage of the officer engulfed in flames and his colleague trying to put out the fire shocked the nation. Some papers published the gruesome images on their front page.

Tuesday's decoy-bombing came as security officials were boasting about their "gains" following a month-long sweep of three districts in Yala in which more than 300 people were detained for questioning.

The attack also revealed what Sonthi called "complacency" on the part of security authorities, as none were wearing protective clothing and no fire or medical personnel were in attendance.

Meanwhile, in Pattani, a teacher-escort detail was hit by a roadside bomb in Yaring district. Police said the officers had just parked their vehicle in front of a public school where the bomb happened to be planted.

Sonthi visited the officer who was wounded, Pol Sgt-Maj Athinun Hayeesalae.

In Narathiwat's Rusoh district, another roadside bomb ripped through an Army pickup truck and wounded eight officers just the night before. The same evening also saw three separate shootings that killed three Muslims.

The ongoing insurgency has pitted a new generation of insurgents against fellow Muslims suspected of collaborating with the state, as well as security officials who are regularly targeted in roadside bombings and ambushes.

An increasing number of civilians and unarmed government officials have also become victims of violence in what appears to be tit-for-tat exchanges between militants and state security officials.

The Nation


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