Pay out for Thai massacre victims

The Thai government has promised to pay compensation to the families of Muslims massacred in a mosque by its forces on one of the bloodiest days in the country’s history.

Thai commission: Massacre due to inexperienced officers
Thai commission: Massacre due to inexperienced officers

The government admitted on Tuesday that troops used excessive force when they stormed the mosque in April in the country’s troubled south during, what it called, “a failed rebellion” that resulted in 108 Muslims killed and five members of the security forces dead.

The raid on the Krue Se mosque was the bloodiest event on a day of fierce fighting with soldiers using eight grenades and heavy weaponry, but the crisis could have ended peacefully, according to the four-page summary of a report released on Tuesday.

An independent committee that investigated the killings said troops should have surrounded the mosque while negotiations brought the stand-off to a peaceful end. It criticised the use of grenades and said the force employed was “disproportionate”.

“The prime minister wanted this information to be made public, so that the public would know that officers were lacking experience and insight that led to the incident,” said government spokesman Jakrapob Penkhair.

He said the government would offer unspecified compensation to the families of the 32 who were killed and the three members of the security forces who died at the mosque.

Lack of accountability

“The government will pay compensation in money and assistance to both sides killed at the mosque but it cannot be expressed in financial terms since some would be offered in scholarships,” said the spokesman.

The government has promised to improve training for security officers to prevent a repeat of the massacre.

However, the government has made no mention as to whether the “inexperienced officers” who were responsible for the massacre would be charged or brought to book.

The summary was released after a cabinet meeting to analyse the report by a committee headed by a former judge. It was not immediately clear if the government was to release the other 28 pages.

Thai, Malay co-operation

Thailand and Malaysia are due to finalise a master plan this week to develop their border areas, Thai officials said on Tuesday.

They said the Joint Development Strategy (JDS) was due to be approved by Thai Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai and Malaysian counterpart Syed Hamid Albar in Bangkok on Thursday.

The JDS would cover road links, trade, tourism, agriculture, energy, education, human resources and disaster relief which would help make the relatively poor Thai south more prosperous and so provide an incentive to end the violence that erupted in January, they said.

Among the projects was a bridge across Kolok River linking Takbai in the southern Thai province of Narathiwat to the Malaysian town of Bukit Bunga in Kelantan state, Surakiart said.

The scheme, which followed a summit between the leaders of both countries in January, covers Malaysia’s four northern states of Perlis, Kelantan, Kedah and Perak, and the southern provinces.

Thai officials declined to say how much the scheme would cost, but Foreign Ministry spokesman Sihasak Phuangketkeow said at least 800 million baht ($19m) would be spent in the first year, starting 2005.

Source : Al Jazeera, News Agencies

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