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03 May 2007

Thailand grants amnesty to Muslim rebels in south

THAILAND'S army-backed premier has decided to grant amnesty to suspected Islamic rebels in the country's Muslim-majority south, the government said Tuesday in its bid to rein in unrest in the region

Surayud Chulanont conveyed his decision to Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, the head of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC), the world's largest grouping of Muslim nations, during a meeting here, the Thai foreign ministry said.

"The government will propose to parliament that amnesty be granted to all persons who have been involved in the ongoing violence" in the south, the ministry said in a statement. No further details were given.

The amnesty aims to ease the violence in the region, which borders Malaysia. Unrest there has escalated in the last six months despite peace-building initiatives by Surayud, including an apology to Muslims over past government abuses.

Thailand has reinforced its weary security force in the south with more than 1,000 new policemen to guard schools which open for a new term later in May, the southern police chief said yesterday.

"These officers have been well trained to protect schools and teachers," Police Lieutenant General Jettanakorn Napeetapat told reporters as the last of the 1,116 police arrived by train in the Malay-speaking region.

More than 2,100 people have been killed during three years of unrest in the area.

Ihsanoglu welcomed the amnesty initiative, saying the OIC was ready to help Thailand in achieving peace. "The OIC delegation reaffirmed their support for the prime minister's conciliatory gesture and policies towards the Thai Muslim community," he said.Reuters

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

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