Thailand will build security fences along part of its 650-km (400-mile) border with Malaysia to try to stop militant Muslims escaping after attacking Thai forces, Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra said on Tuesday.
The army would build the fences across suspected escape routes used by militants in predominantly Buddhist Thailand’s largely Muslim south, where a new wave of violence began last month when gunmen raided an army base, he said.
“We will focus on areas with cross-border smuggling problems which are not too many. We don’t have to build fences all along the entire 600-km border,” Thaksin told reporters in Bangkok.
A massive security operation has failed to catch the gunmen who stole more than 100 weapons, mostly M-16 assault rifles, in the attack, or the people who set ablaze 21 state schools in an operation officials believe was a diversion.
Since then, several Buddhist monks and police and civil servants of both religions have been killed by machete-wielding raiders or gunmen.
Some officials believe those behind the attacks may have links to Jemaah Islamiah, widely regarded as the Southeast Asian branch of al Qaeda.
In the latest border incident last Saturday, two people were shot dead in the southern province of Narathiwat province while Thaksin was talking to officials about how to halt the violence.
Police believe the attackers were connected to apparently resurgent separatist groups in a region that is home to most of Thailand’s six million Muslims, almost 10 percent of the population. The attackers fled after the ambush.