BANGKOK: A tearful Queen Sirikit yesterday made a passionate plea for a national concerted effort to end the daily violence in southern Thailand, “because every Thai owns this country and residents have every right to live and remain in the three southern provinces.”
The queen also recounted several tales of daily incidents of helpless individuals being brutally killed by armed militants in Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat provinces, before an audience of 930 people at Dusit Palace yesterday.
This gathering where the queen met with leaders from various segments of the Thai society was an unprecedented move by the royal family. The event was televised.
It was attended by leaders of communities, associations, non-governmental organisations, the media and members of the Cabinet headed by Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and it was organised after the queen's recent visit to southern Thailand.
“I came across countless tales of brutal killings of innocent civilians as well as state officials. I should share this with the Thai people so that they will be aware and care for their fellow citizens.”
Tears rolled down her eyes when she recounted the case of a child trying to put back the head of his assassinated father to his body.
The head was cut off by two motorcycle-riding gunmen who stormed into their house and shot the father's head off.
The queen, accompanied by Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, called on the Thai people to oppose the brutal bullying of the helpless in southern Thailand who have nowhere to escape, but “I don’t mean that the people should take to arms.”
“Is it right to allow people to be killed. We have laws but I don’t know why they cannot be used,” she said.
“We should all consult one another as to what needs to be done and help the government of His Majesty the King (Bhumibol Adulyadej) to take care of the people so that they can live happily,” the queen urged.
The king and queen first visited southern Thailand 45 years ago.
The queen said: “Thai Buddhists and Thai Muslims used to live peacefully side by side but now the situation has changed and the people have been subjected to brutal intimidation. It has also been a characteristic hallmark of this country never to prevent people from choosing their own religion,” she said.
The queen talked about an incident where leaflets were left at the scene where a killing had taken place, demanding Buddhists to leave “my land.”
She said Thais in southern Thailand asked why they were being demanded to leave when they had done nothing wrong and asked the military not to desert them.
She said she sensed that the militants were now targeting their brutality mostly at innocent people.
Since January of this year, more than 300 Thais had been killed in southern Thailand. The three provinces have a population of 300,000.
“I don’t know where they can go but they have the right to live in their land,” she said. – The Nation/Asia News Network