Thai Jihad Update. “Thailand extends emergency rule in south,” from AFP:
BANGKOK (AFP) – Thailand’s junta extended emergency rule in the restive south and said teachers there can carry arms, in an apparent return to strong-arm tactics after attempts at reconciliation.
The new government, installed after the September 19 coup, has tried to promote peace in the Muslim-majority region, where separatist violence has killed more than 1,800 since January 2004.
But the bloodshed has continued, prompting the Council for National Security (CNS), as the junta calls itself, to extend emergency rule for three more months in Yala, Narathiwat and Pattani provinces.
Thailand’s military-backed government had said in late October that it would end emergency rule in January, after it revived a key regional mediation body and offered a series of other olive branches to the insurgents.
But the militants have not yet taken up the government’s peace initiatives, and violence has spiralled, with civilians increasingly targeted.
Some 65 teachers and 10 students have been killed in the three southern provinces since the insurgency erupted, and 110 schools — seen as easy targets representing the government — have been set ablaze.
The fatal shooting Wednesday of a 39-year-old Muslim female teacher in Pattanit highlighted the problem, prompting Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont to hold an emergency security meeting in Bangkok.
After the meeting, the regional southern army commander agreed to allow teachers to arm themselves outside of working hours.
“It’s up to the teachers, but I personally don’t want teachers to get involved in fighting, because their duty is to teach,” Lieutenant General Viroach Buacharoon told reporters.
“But they can be armed when they’re on a private trip and out of working hours.”
The military also agreed to step up patrols around schools.
“Security measures will vary depend on the school’s location, but soldiers and police will be deployed during teaching hours. In some cases they will patrol around the school buildings,” Viroach said.
The announcement came as the nation was still mourning the death Monday of a teacher who spent eight months in a coma after she was taken hostage and beaten at a school in Narathiwat.