“Some foreign countries have expressed their readiness to interfere and what I can say is that we have done everything to exercise maximum restraint,” Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra said in his weekly radio address on Saturday.
“If we already explained and they do not understand, that is their problem. We are not begging for food from any countries and we did not start this problem,” he said, adding that no foreign figures had any role in the debate.
The defiant prime minister said the security forces’ overwhelming response to Muslim insurgents’ attacks on police stations and checkpoints on Wednesday should be seen in the context of the recent wave of violence in the south.
“There were 97 police, military, monks and people killed and more than 90 injured along with countless arson attacks on government buildings,” he said of the unrest which flared at the start of the year.
Thaksin reiterated his belief that those responsible were not separatists despite confessions from those captured that they were part of a force seeking independence for the Muslim-majority south.
“I am not convinced that those people were motivated by separatist ideology because according to Islamic principles all followers should protect their motherland and 99.99% of them were born on Thai soil,” he said.
Rights groups’ criticism
The prime minister remarks came after the UN’s top human rights official called on the government to promptly investigate the deaths of so many insurgents at the hands of security forces who were well-armed and well-prepared for an attack.
Mass funerals were held
Acting High Commissioner for Human Rights Bertrand Ramcharan noted that: “officials are required to refrain from using force exceeding that strictly required by the exigencies of the situation,” his spokesman said.
Thailand’s national human rights commissioner Wasant Panich reportedly said he had documented many accounts from witnesses that police had killed suspected insurgents who were incapable of fighting back.
“There were many options open to the soldiers allowing them to use more a lenient approach with the assailants,” Wasant was quoted as saying in The Nation newspaper.
Several other organisations including New York-based Human Rights Watch have also called for an inquiry into the events.
Thaksin’s comments also appeared to have been targeted at Malaysia’s announcement on Friday that it would accept any refugees fleeing the violence, a decision that came a day after it insisted they would be turned back.
“The Malaysian government equally stand condemned for turning a blind eye, for endorsing the licence for the Thai government to conduct the massacre against the Muslims in southern Thailand”
“It will not be refugee camps but some arrangements must be made,” Prime Minister Abd Allah Ahmad Badawi was quoted as saying by the Bernama news agency.
“They will want a place of refuge until peace returns to their area and with the uncertainty at present naturally they will want to come over here.”
Malaysia’s opposition Islamic Party (PAS) on Saturday slammed Thailand over what it called “brutal state-sanctioned terrorism” against Muslims that left more than 100 people dead in southern provinces.
PAS said Wednesday’s clashes near the Malaysian border amounted to a “planned massacre,” and criticised Kuala Lumpur for “turning a blind eye.”
Statements by Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, military and police officers that the attackers were criminals and bandits appeared “coordinated to provide a convenient excuse to justify and give cover for government sanction to the massacre,” it said.
“The Malaysian government equally stand condemned for turning a blind eye, for endorsing the licence for the Thai government to conduct the massacre against the Muslims in southern Thailand,” it added.
PAS said Thai Muslims had legitimate frustrations, due to economic deprivation and denial of rights to land, freedom of religion and language, as well as the right to run their own schools and to live according to an Islamic way of life.
“The way to peace is to address their long standing grievances,” it said adding governments found it more convenient to join, “the US-led western chorus by simply branding them Islamic militants and by so doing, give themselves the licence to wipe them away from the face of the earth.”