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Last Updated: Wednesday, 19 May, 2004, 11:16 GMT 12:16 UK
Thai Queen concerned at violence
By Kylie Morris
BBC, Bangkok

Thailand's royal family has made a rare statement to express concern over violence in the country's south.

A spokesman for the prime minister said the sentiments of Queen Sirikit were conveyed to the Thai leader.

Thai Buddhist monks inspect the scene at one of the Buddhist temples damaged by bombs in Narathiwat province, southern Thailand, 17 May 2004
The latest attacks targeted Buddhist temples

Thailand's royal family is greatly revered, but rarely makes comments on any subject which might be construed as political.

This is the second time that the royals have broken their silence on the problems facing Thailand's Muslim majority south.

Violence resurfaced there at the start of the year, but reached a new level of intensity when more than 100 people were killed when co-ordinated attacks were launched against security posts at the end of last month.

More than 30 were killed inside a mosque.

Militant violence reported in three provinces on 29 April: Yala, Songkhla and Pattani
Thailand is overwhelmingly Buddhist with Muslims making up 3.8%
Separatist rebellions have occurred periodically for centuries

At the start of this week, there were bomb blasts outside three Buddhist temples in the south.

A spokesman for the prime minister says the Queen has advised him to tell his cabinet that she does not want to see the situation turned into a religious conflict.

According to the spokesman, she asked that whatever measures were used to solve the crisis, people must not be led to believe that the problems were based on religious difference.

Thailand's Muslim majority south has long felt aggrieved by its slower pace of development, and a separatist movement thrived there in the 70s and 80s.

Many analysts believe the recent violence is stoked by the same sentiments.

However, there has also been criticism of the government and accusations that with its strong-arm tactics, it has only served to inflame the sense of grievance.

Blasts rock Thai Buddhist temples
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Analysis: Thailand's Muslim divide
29 Apr 04  |  Asia-Pacific
Eyewitness: Thai violence aftermath
12 May 04  |  Asia-Pacific
Who was behind the Thai attacks?
30 Apr 04  |  Asia-Pacific
Suspect sought over Thai attacks
05 May 04  |  Asia-Pacific
Grieving begins in Thailand's south
29 Apr 04  |  Asia-Pacific
UN demands Thai clashes inquiry
30 Apr 04  |  Asia-Pacific
Profile: Thaksin Shinawatra
28 Apr 04  |  Asia-Pacific

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