Military to enforce ban on public gatherings
Published on Jan 19, 2007
- Move signals shift after series of goodwill gestures
The military yesterday tightened the screws on militants in the restive South by enforcing a controversial stipulation of martial law that prohibits gatherings of more than 10 people.
The move aims to stop public protests in the southernmost provinces of Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat, as well as four Malay-speaking districts in Songkhla.
Maj-General Chamlong Khunsong, chief of staff of the military-run Internal Security Operation Command, yesterday said many protests were initiated by militants who used local villagers as shields against security officials.
Roads and public offices, including police stations, have been brought to a standstill in the Muslim-majority South by outdoor protests, often in response to the arrest of suspected militants.
Chamlong said exceptions would be made for religious ceremonies, such as mass prayers at mosques, or activities in line with local customs.
The move appeared to be a change of direction after a series of goodwill gestures over the past two weeks when authorities released on bail 14 religious teachers, or ustaz, as well as revoking rewards offered for the capture of suspected militants.
Officials said the ustaz were accused of committing treason, while the rewards often created disputes among police forces, some of whom appeared to be more concerned with making money than enforcing the law.
Meanwhile, the violence continued as suspected insurgents shot dead two people in Narathiwat yesterday.
Kaenara Srinoi, a 33-year-old Buddhist female health volunteer, was shot four times as she rode her motorcycle in a village in Sungai Padi district. She later died.
Attackers shot dead Muslim Ma Yee-ngor, 68, and injured his 25-year-old son Ma-gru Yee-ngor. The two were ambushed on their motorcycle in Chana district.
Violence in the three southernmost provinces has spiralled in recent months. Almost 2,000 people have been killed since January 2004, when unrest flared up in the region.