June 17, 2006

Thai militants seek Muslim world’s attention

By Nopporn Wong-Anan

BANGKOK (Reuters) - A series of bomb attacks in Thailand's
Muslim south were launched by militants to coincide with a
meeting of Islamic leaders in Central Asia next week, a top
Thai security official said on Saturday.

Militants in the Thai southernmost region, annexed by
largely Buddhist Bangkok a century ago, were trying by all
means to have their struggle for a Muslim sultanate recognized
by the Muslim community, said National Intelligence Agency
chief Jumpol Manmai.

"They exploit all occasions, diplomatically or violently,
to have their struggle recognized, especially by the OIC,"
Jumpol told Reuters, referring to the 57-nation Organization of
the Islamic Conference.

A three-day meeting of OIC foreign ministers is due to
start on Monday in Azerbaijan, where the Israeli-Palestinian
conflict, Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Sudan and Cyprus will top
the agenda, the OIC said in a statement.

Thai Foreign Minister Kantathi Suphamongkhon, whose country
has observer status, will attend, his spokesman said.

At least 60 small bomb attacks took place on Thursday and
Friday in the southern provinces of Pattani, Yala and
Narathiwat, killing at least two and wounding more than 30

Security officials said they expected more explosions as
more than 200 small bombs like those used in the past week had
been smuggled from Malaysia into the region of 1.8 million
people, most of them ethnic Malays who feel more connected to
Malaysia than Thailand.

Malaysian Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar urged Bangkok
not to make Kuala Lumpur a scapegoat or a bogeyman for the
unrest in the south, Malaysian state news agency Bernama

"Pointing an accusing finger to this party and that party
will not help in restoring peace and security but in fact will
further worsen the situation," Syed Hamid told reporters in the
southern Malaysian state of Johor on Friday.

Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur have exchanged verbal attacks
since the separatist insurgency re-emerged in the Thai Muslim
south in January 2004. More than 1,300 troops, civilians and
militants have been killed.

(Additional reporting by Jalil Hamid)