BANGKOK: Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra fired his national police chief and a top army general last night, saying they had failed to stop a string of bombing, arson and shooting attacks in the country's Muslim-majority southern provinces.
Police Gen Sant Sarutanont, 60, was replaced by his deputy, Gen Sunthorn Saikwan, in the sudden shake-up, and shunted to an “inactive post”.
Sunthorn will hold the post on a “caretaker” basis, officials said.
Lt-Gen Pongsak Eakbannasing, commander of the 4th Army Region, which covers the south, was also shifted to an “inactive post”.
The powerful police chief was on a visit to Australia to attend an international anti-terrorist meeting, and out of touch when the announcement of his sacking was made yesterday evening.
“He was not able to stop the violence in the South,” Thaksin told reporters after confirming Sant's firing. “The violent incidents were happening again and a again.”
The sudden changes followed a cabinet reshuffle on March 10 in which Thaksin removed his interior minister and the only Muslim in his cabinet, Wan Muhammad Noor Matha. He replaced his defence minister, Gen Thammarak Isurakura, the same day.
The replacement of some of the country's top security officials came amid an accelerating cycle of violence in the three southernmost, Muslim-majority provinces.
In the latest incidents, on Thursday night fires were set simultaneously at 36 empty government buildings in the south, mainly police kiosks, and a village headman was shot dead yesterday morning.
Police and army officials have blamed for the string of arson, bombing and shooting attacks on common bandits, political infighting and on Muslim militants determined to separate the far south from Buddhist-majority Thailand.
The area has become tenser in the past week, following the disappearance of a prominent Muslim lawyer. – dpa
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