July 14, 2005

Thai cabinet rushes to meet after raids in south

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra
called a hasty cabinet meeting on Friday after Muslim militants
threw a southern town into chaos with a series of concerted

Ministers would discuss how to react to the first
orchestrated attack on a town since a Muslim insurgency began
in the far south in January last year, government spokesman
Chalermdej Jombunud said.

A policeman was killed and 23 people were injured in the
attacks which brought havoc to Yala, a normally quiet town
1,100 km (690 miles) south of Bangkok, late on Thursday.

Militants set off a series of bombs, some of which hit
brought down power transmission pylons and plunged the town
into darkness for an hour.

During the blackout, militants on motorcycles fired at
random and tossed Molotov cocktails into shops and houses,
police said.

They set off bombs at a newly opened cinema complex, a
hotel cafe, a karaoke restaurant and a convenience store almost

They scattered spikes on roads around the city in an
attempt to hinder the movement of security forces.

The government of Yala province, of which the town is
capital, appealed to people to stay at home as 1,000 soldiers
and police were deployed against the militants.

Five policemen and three "bandits" were seriously wounded
in the clashes, Public Health Minister Suchai Charoenrattanakul
told Channel 9 television.

Only six people were still in hospital on Friday morning,
he said.

The havoc, which lasted about an hour, was one of the most
dramatic attacks in the latest bout of violence against the
government of overwhelmingly Buddhist Thailand in a region it
annexed a century ago.

Since the violence began in January last year, more than
800 people have been killed in the far south, once an
independent Muslim sultanate where militants fought a low-key
separatist war in the 1970s and 1980s.

The government has imposed martial law on parts of the

But violence is unabated with at least 10 people beheaded
-- in killings some top officials say have been inspired by
Iraqi insurgents -- in recent months and officials say
thousands of locally-born people, many of them Buddhists, have
moved out.