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Thailand Denies Overseas Backing for Insurgency in South

Thaksin Shinawatra blamed Thai Muslims who had studied abroad for stoking a separatist-inspired campaign that has left more than 540 people dead after it sparked back into life in January. “There has not been any support from foreign governments but it’s our nationals who have studied aboard and established personal ties with hardliners,” he told reporters in this northeastern province where he was chairing a cabinet meeting. “There was no interference from any international organisations. There wasn’t any link with Al-Qaeda,” he said. Analysts have blamed religious extremists, separatists and disaffected Muslims in the region who have long complained of discrimination for stoking the violence. Most of the bomb blasts and shootings have been confined to Thailand’s three southernmost provinces of Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat but an intelligence report indicated violence could spread to nearby Songkhla, defence minister General Sumpan Boonyanun said Tuesday. Tensions have risen in the region since October 25 when 87 Muslim demonstrators died following the violent break up of a riot by Thai security forces. Most of the victims died from suffocation after being rounded up, bound and piled on the back of army trucks before a six hour trip to an army camp. Muslims represent only four percent of the population in predominantly Buddhist Thailand but live mostly in the south near to the border with Muslim Malaysia. Full Story

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