More than 500 Muslim villagers gathered at southern Thailand’s Sabaiyoi town March 18 to demand justice after a midnight attack on an Islamic school left two young students dead and eight wounded. Students were asleep at the boarding school when assailants threw grenades and strafed the building with automatic rifle fire. Unidentified assailants also threw a grenade into a local mosque, injuring 11, on March 15, the same day suspected Islamist militants killed eight Buddhist civilians in an attack on a van. Local authorities blamed the schoool-house attack on Islamist militants, but this is disputed by local residents.
Thai authorities have imposed a curfew on two districts in Narathiwat province deemed “red zones.” Until now, Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont has sought a more conciliatory approach to the conflict than his predecessor Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted by a military coup last September. 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 national government in 1902. An estimated 2,000 have died in political violence in southern Thailand since 2003. (BBC World Service, DPA, MWC News, March 18)
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