NARATHIWAT (South Thailand): The bloody clashes between the police and protesters yesterday in which 84 people were killed could have been avoided if the people had not reacted aggressively, Tak Bai District chieftain Mustapa Chehase said yesterday.
He said the situation turned wild when groups of people started hurling stones at the soldiers despite repeated appeals from the police to disperse, reports Bernama.
“Police have to open fire when instructions and advice from Islamic leaders were ignored,” he said when met at the funeral of one of the victims here, about two kilometres from the scene of the violent clashes.
Mustapa said the incident broke out when police detained six Muslim volunteer security guards on Oct 15 for allegedly giving authorities false information and stealing state-owned guns.
The delay in concluding investigations created anxiety among the detainees' families who went to the Tak Bai police station to get information, he said.
Former Tak Bai elected representative, Syed Bukhari Syed Ahmad, who claimed to be the middleman to mediate an end to the conflict between the protesters and soldiers, said the residents were adamant and demanded the immediate release of the six detainees.
He said though the negotiations were between leaders of the Narathiwat Islamic Religious Council and the residents, the talks ended in a deadlock.
Meanwhile, the leader of a Muslim group and Muslim academics on Monday attacked the use of violence by authorities in suppressing protesters outside the police station, saying it would prolong hostilities in the south.
Mimanase Sama-aree, president of the Association of Thai Muslim Youth, described Monday's incident as violent as the deadly attack by security forces on Krue Se mosque in Pattani on April 28.
“The violence in the South that we have been facing is rooted in the state’s use of violence to suppress protestors without listening to them,” he said.
“The government always talks about using peaceful methods but it acts the opposite.’’
Alhamad Somboon Bualuang, an independent academic, said Monday's drama could lead to the type of destruction and casualties which are plaguing other countries around the world battling Islamic militancy.
“The government should have used a softer approach and it should not have put the blame on protestors afterwards. I fear more violence will happen soon,” he said.
Alhamad said the government’s bid to use Muslim religious leaders to negotiate peace was too late, insisting that they should have been involved in the peace talks from the beginning.
How it happened
6am: About 200 people gather at Tak Bai district police station.
7am: The size of the crowd reaches 700 people.
They destroy police cars and push into the station, before retreating when authorities fire shots into the air.
9am: The police station is reinforced with 1,000 armed officers.
Senior officials try to negotiate as protesters demand the release of six suspects.
2pm: The number of protesters increases to 3,000 and they try to break down the gate at the entrance of the station.
Anti-riot police successfully push them back.
3pm: Police disperse protesters with fire hoses. A gunshot is heard but no one is injured.
Five minutes later police fire tear gas into the mob and round up protesters, ordering them to remove their clothes and lie down on the ground.
Police fire into the air; some protesters escape.
It takes 30 minutes to bring the mob under control. – The Nation/Asia News Network
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