Bangkok (Thailand): Thailand’s military apologized Tuesday, January 31, for
the killing of four Muslims in the country’s troubled south after
an outpouring of anger from rights groups and Muslims.
“If our officers were in fact guilty, they will have to face up to
these charges and apologize,” Reuters quoted Deputy Prime Minister Yuthasak
Sasiprapha, a retired army general as saying..
He added that compensation and justice would be given to the
families of the victims.
Four Muslims were gunned down Sunday by army rangers in the
southern island of Pattani on suspicion of being separatists.
An army spokesman said on Monday the four men, who were in the
back of a pickup truck in which a rifle was found, were killed
after gunmen opened fire on troops who attempted to approach the
vehicle to carry out an inspection.
The rangers returned fire, killing four and wounding three others,
but the gunmen fled on a motorcycle, the spokesman said.
But the killings prompted an outpouring of anger from Muslims and
human rights groups.
To ease the Muslim anger, army commander-in-chief Prayuth Chan-ocha
apologized to the families of the victims.
Thai Muslims, who make up five percent of the predominantly
Buddhist kingdom’s population, have long complained of
discrimination under the heavy-handed practices by the military.
They have also called for Malay to become an official language and
to replace the Buddhist-centric school curriculum with one less
hostile to Muslim sensitivities.
More than 4,000 people have been killed in south Thailand since
violence erupted almost eight years ago.
Previous Thai governments have tried “hearts and minds” campaigns
to tackle the unrest, but nothing has worked.
The International Crisis Group had recently urged the
military-installed government to start preparing the Buddhist
majority to accept a negotiated autonomy for the Muslim-majority
Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat are the only Muslim-majority
provinces in Thailand and were an independent Muslim sultanate
until annexed officially a century ago.