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30 April 2007

Separatists behead 28th southern victim

(dpa) - Suspected separatist insurgents on Monday killed a Buddhist father and son, beheaded the father and set their bodies on fire - supposedly to avenge the weekend bombing of a mosque in Thailand's deep South.

The decapitated body of Preecha Nuanthong, 30, and the bullet-riddled corpse of his nephew Dusit, 16, were found on a roadside in Nongchik village, 730 kilometres south of Bangkok, said Pattani Police Sub-Lieutenant Nanthachai Janpoh.

Preecha's head was found later in Nongchik's morning market. The father and son had been hunting in a nearby jungle.

He was the 28th person decapitated by Islamist forces since they resumed a simmering separatist campaign in January, 2004. More than 2,200 people have died in the insurgency since then.

Spray-painted on the road was a message reading, "This is revenge for the killing of Utha Bongor," naming the Thai-Muslim who was killed by a grenade tossed into a mosque compound on Saturday in Pattani by unknown perpetrators.

They were just the latest victims of the increasingly violent insurgency in Thailand's three southernmost provinces - Narathiwat, Pattani and Yala - were a long-simmering separatist struggle turned bloodier in January, 2004, when Muslim militants raided an army arms depot and stole 300 war weapons.

The Thai government has painted the conflict as a separatist insurgency, down-playing its religious element, a stance that has been accepted by much of the world's Islamic community.

Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) Secretary General Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu was in Bangkok on Monday to discuss the growing violence with Thai Foreign Minister Nitya Pibulsongkram, and was scheduled to hold talks with Muslim religious leaders from the deep South on Tuesday, also in Bangkok.

On Tuesday Ihsanoglu will also meet with Thai Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont to discuss the deep South, where more than 80 per cent of the local population follow Islam and claim close ethnic and linguistic ties to neighbouring Malaysia, a predominantly Muslim country.

In the rest of Thailand the predominant religion is Buddhism, professed by more than 90 per cent of the 65 million population.

Surayud, who became prime minister on October 1, last year, has adopted a conciliatory approach to the insurgency but thus far has failed to stop the near-daily killings.

The three provinces constituted an independent Islamic sultanate known as Pattani for hundreds of years before being conquered by Bangkok in 1786. The border provinces came under direct rule of the Thai bureaucracy in 1902.

A separatist struggle took off in the 1950s, fuelled by government efforts to suppress the local culture and religion in the region.

POSTED BY /http://www.bangkokpost.com/

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