Thailand: October 29, 2004


Islamic militants are gaining ground among the Moslem minority in southern Thailand. On October 25th, two thousand young men demonstrated outside a police station in southern Thailand, demanding that six men be released. The police responded by arresting 1,300 of the demonstrators. After the arrested men were stuffed into trucks and police vans, 78 died of suffocation or heat related ailments. On the 28th, two bombs went off in the south, killing two and wounding 38. In the last week, violence in the south has killed 89 and wounded several hundred. So far this year, the religious and political violence in the south has left over 400 dead. The reasons for the violence are many. The Moslem population is a minority in Thailand, and feel more affinity for neighboring Malaysia (which is mostly Moslem.) But the south of Thailand is also less wealthy and economically developed than the rest of the country. This, along with the development of many criminal gangs (specializing in smuggling drugs and other goods, as well extortion and robbery.) The government has tried to use economic development projects to quiet things down, but the recent deaths has increased the anti-government feelings, and the number of people willing to use violence against the government and non-Moslems. 


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