NARATHIWAT, Thailand – Thai authorities prepared Monday to impose a state of emergency for insurgency-hit areas of the country’s Muslim south, as violence continued unabated with two slayings and a bombing that wounded seven security personnel.
A raid on the southern city of Yala by militants last week that left two policemen dead and 22 people injured prompted the Cabinet to adopt a decree Friday giving Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra sweeping new emergency powers.
The decree expands the government’s authority to impose curfews, ban public gatherings, censor news, close publications, limit travel, detain suspects without charge, confiscate property and tap telephones. Critics complain that the decree is unconstitutional and dictatorial.
The measure would be imposed in the provinces of Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat and parts of nearby Songkhla province, Cabinet Secretary Bowornsak Uwanno said.
The Cabinet was expected to approve the recommendation and put the state of emergency into effect Tuesday, he said.
Former Prime Minister Anand Panyarachun, head of the National Reconciliation Commission assigned with seeking solutions to the problems in the south, met with Thaksin Monday night to discuss the measure. Anand earlier expressed concern about how the government was exercising power and whether human rights would be considered.
The Foreign Ministry on Monday briefed 58 foreign diplomats, including 12 ambassadors, on the new law.
Thaksin says the measure is necessary to curb violence in the south, where about 900 people have died in hundreds of drive-by shootings and scores of bombings since Islamic separatists launched their insurgency in January 2004.
The southern provinces — Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat — are the only predominantly Islamic areas in Buddhist-majority Thailand, and southern Muslims complain of discrimination in jobs and education.
Den Tohmeena, a southern Senator, said the new law is meaningless to people in the south who consider the government corrupt.
“The local people are used to abuse of power by government officials and security personnel, so whatever decree or law is imposed will make no difference to them,” Den said.
On Monday, suspected separatists in Narathiwat set off a bomb hidden on a bridge while a truck carrying soldiers and police passed by. Five soldiers and two policemen were hurt.
In other attacks, a motorcycle gunman fatally shot a teacher in Pattani and a rubber plantation worker was slashed to death. A soldier was shot to death while on patrol Sunday night in Narathiwat.