Soldiers and police, on Thursday, raided the Islam Suksa Wittaya school in Pattani's Yarang district, the first such operation under a state of emergency declared in the three provinces of Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat on Tuesday.

 

Under a new emergency law that came into effect last week, security forces can hold suspects without charge for up to 30 days with court permission. Suspects must be held in areas other than prison cells.

 

In Thursday's raid, police were looking for suspects in connection with violence in the three provinces over the past 18 months that has cost about 900 lives and which the government blames on an Islamic insurgency.

 

In the latest violence to hit the area, Nual Dindaeng, a 58-year-old local official, was shot dead by motorcycle gunmen in his pickup truck in Narathiwat's Bacho district, said police Major Chalong Wattanapakdi. Insurgents have generally targeted local officials and security personnel.

 

Colonel Worraphon Wisarutphit, the deputy commander for Pattani province, said seven men were rounded up at the Islamic boarding school. They are being held at an army base in Pattani, the biggest of the three southernmost provinces.

 

'Dictatorial' powers

 

Officials  blame Muslim teachers
for fuelling unrest in the area

However, a police officer in the area, Colonel Chaiyan Supachaiyakit, said that only five men were being held, including one Cambodian and two Malaysians. He did not explain the discrepancy in numbers.

 

Security officials had conducted many raids on southern Islamic schools before the state of emergency, and it was not clear whether the circumstances of Thursday's raids were any different from previous ones.

 

The government has repeatedly blamed Muslim teachers for fuelling the area's unrest. The new law allows Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, in areas he declares as emergency zones, to impose curfews, ban public gatherings, limit travel, censor news and ban publications, detain suspects without charge, confiscate property and tap telephones, among other measures.

 

The government has come under heavy criticism from the press, politicians and activists, who charge that it gives the prime minister dictatorial powers, and may antagonize southern residents and make the situation worse.

 

Dej-udom Krairij, chairman of the Law Society of Thailand, on Thursday called the emergency law "the most disgraceful" in the history of the legal profession.

 

"It (emergency) was not issued according to the due process of law and fails to meet the standards of human rights protection"

Dej-udom Krairij,chairman of Thailand's law society

"It was not issued according to the due process of law and fails to meet the standards of human rights protection," he said,

 

Dej-udom offered the society's help to those questioned or detained under its provisions.