TAK BAI (NARATHIWAT): An air of uncertainty hung over this Thai border town yesterday following a violent protest a day earlier which left 84 people dead.
While some shops opened for business, others remained closed in this riverside town of 20,000 inhabitants which is just 6km from the Malaysian border town of Pengkalan Kubor in Kelantan.
Thai security forces were seen seizing trucks, cars and motorcycles, which they believe belonged to the protesters.
Slippers, which were probably worn by the protesters, were seen strewn on the road leading to the police station.
There were different versions on what had happened.
Some said the 2,000-odd protesters did not have firearms while others claimed that the protesters shot at the security forces first before they returned fire.
There were also claims that some bodies were recovered from the Taba River. Locals said 90% of the protesters were outsiders.
A police superintendent said the incident occurred because the protesters wanted to take the law into their own hands while the Thai police had to uphold the law.
“It was regrettable. I feel very sad that lives were lost,” the officer said, adding that he called in reinforcements after the mob started to force their way into the compound of the police station at about noon.
He said order had been restored and the town residents were able to resume their daily activities.
Sulaiman Mahamad, 40, who runs an Internet cafe here, said his shop would usually be full by 3pm but was empty, adding that it was unusually quiet after the breaking of fast yesterday.
It was reported that a curfew was imposed from 10pm to 6am (11pm to 7am Malaysian time) in the three southern provinces of Narathiwat, Pattani and Yala until further notice.
Rashid, who lives in the town centre, said the police station might have been torched if the authorities did not disperse the protesters by 8pm on Monday.
He said he heard gunshots at 11am and tear gas being fired at 3pm to disperse the crowd.
Aishah Mohamad, who sells roti canai some 200m from the police station, said her entire family stayed indoors on Monday when they heard the gunshots.
Rosnah Ismail, 27, whose 30-year-old husband was among those detained, went to the station to find out what had happened to the family's truck.
“I am worried about my husband,” said Rosnah who has three children, including a 20-day-old baby.
Her husband Ramly Ismail, who works as a trader in Temerloh, Pahang, had returned home for Ramadan and to celebrate Hari Raya.