Jan 17, 2008
Thailand Claims Al Qaeda Funding Muslim Separatists -AFP
BANGKOK (AFP)–Thailand’s army-installed government Friday for the first time claimed that international terror network Al Qaeda is funding Islamic separatists in the country’s southernmost provinces.
“The situation has intensified recently because they received money from overseas, from the international terror organization Al Qaeda,” government spokesman Chaiya Yimvilai told reporters.
“There are also local drug traffickers involved in both financial support and buying arms for militants,” he said.
The remarks were a sharp reversal of Thailand’s long-held stance that the four-year conflict along the southern border with Malaysia is an entirely domestic problem with no formal links to global Islamic extremists.
He spoke at the end of a week of grisly attacks in the Muslim-majority provinces, where more than 2,800 people have died since the rebellion began in January 2004.
Separatist rebels killed eight Thai soldiers in Narathiwat on Monday and tried to decapitate them, while at least 37 people were injured Tuesday when a bomb exploded at a morning market in Yala.
Killings have grown more frequent and more brutal since the military seized power in a bloodless coup in September 2006, despite a raft of peace efforts by the current government.
Chaiya said the militants have stepped up their attacks in a show of force, and to exploit security gaps resulting from a recent troop rotation.
“Violence will continue because there are many factors, including corrupt local officials in uniform, with both local and national politicians involved,” he said.
(END) Dow Jones Newswires 01-17-082350ET Copyright (c) 2008 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
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