Military chief may have contacted Patani fighters

For the past several days; Defence Minister Boonrawd Somtas had been on a secret mission that is related to problems in the South, and is reporting directly to Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont.“Gen Boonrawd held a meeting with leaders of an insurgent group,” a source said on Friday without giving further details.“The meeting might be the outcome of cooperation between Gen Surayud and Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi,” the source added.Earlier, the Malaysian prime minister had agreed to help initiate negotiations with insurgent groups.The source did not reveal where the meeting was held, saying only that the location was in Thailand, not in
Malaysia’s Kelantan state.
Council for National Security (CNS) chief Sonthi Boonyaratkalin said security in the strife-torn South is being stepped up in view of the third anniversary today of the Krue Se massacre in Patani on April 28, 2004.Gen Sonthi said the massacre should not be recognised as an important day by any insurgent group. Nonetheless, the army generally beefed up security whenever such days drew near.More than 1,000 checkpoints have been set up from 4pm to 5am throughout the course of the anniversary.Gen Sonthi said the authorities had exercised extra caution in pinpointing Muslim men dressed in veils and robes of Muslim women in order to mingle in all-female protests.Asked about the high levels of young Muslims joining insurgent groups, he said the army would work harder to deal with the issue as young people were immature and easy to influence.He was satisfied with the fact that insurgents had shifted attacks from civilians to rangers because it meant less innocent people would become victims.Asked about plans to boost paramilitary forces, he said the fiscal budget should be taken into account first.In Narathiwat, a bomb blast at a kanom krok stall severely wounded a grandmother who owned the stall selling the hot sweet meats, along with her teenage nephew in Tak Bai district yesterday.More than 100 Muslim women and children blocked a road to a mosque in Yala’s Yaha district yesterday to demand a curfew be lifted.It was the third protest held this week to demand that the curfew imposed in their area and neighbouring Bannang Sata district be ended.The first anti-curfew protest took place on Wednesday in Ban Ngo-gapo of Bannang Sata. The second was held by villagers at tambon Tanohputae-nai on Thursday.In the same province, a special combat troop escaped unscathed from a roadside bomb attack in Raman district yesterday while in a pickup truck providing security in the area.

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