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Last Updated: Wednesday, 28 July, 2004, 09:35 GMT 10:35 UK
Thai mosque killings criticised
Soldier outside Krue Se mosque
More than 30 people died in the Krue Se mosque stand-off
The head of an inquiry into the killing of 32 militants in a mosque in southern Thailand has accused security forces of using excessive force.

Suchinda Yongsunthorn said heavily armed personnel stormed the Krue Se mosque, opening fire on militants armed only with knives and a single gun.

The incident happened on 28 April, during an uprising in three southern provinces that left 108 rebels dead.

Mr Suchinda heads a six-person committee investigating the killings.

The resulting 30-page report was due to be delivered to Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra on Wednesday.

Asked by reporters if he believed too much force had been used inside the Krue Se, mosque in Pattani province, Mr Suchinda said: "Yes, I do feel that way."

"Various evidence convinced me, such as the many heavy weapons... and machine guns used by the military, while the militants had only machetes and one gun with not many stolen bullets," he is quoted as saying by the French news agency AFP.

The inquiry does not blame any particular individual and clears the military from blame, saying that the region had already been placed under martial law at the time of the uprising.

"The conclusion was neutral, did not point out directly who was to blame and it's merely a direct report of what happened," Mr Suchinda said.

Thailand's south has endured decades of separatist violence, but after a period of relative peace, trouble flared again at the start of this year. More than 250 people have been killed since January.

Government officials, teachers, security forces and Buddhist monks have been particularly targeted by suspected Muslim militants.

But the violence on 28 April was unprecedented, with more than 100 people being killed in a single day in Yala, Pattani and Songkhla provinces.

Muslim communities accused the Thai authorities of being heavy-handed in crushing the unrest.

But General Panlop Pinmanee, the military commander who ordered the mosque operation, was unrepentant.

"I had no choice. If I had delayed my decision by two or three hours there would have been more catastrophe," he told AFP.

Mr Suchinda said it was down to Mr Thaksin whether or not to make the report public, but he warned that "heavy-handed" tactics by the government would not solve the problem.

After submitting the report to the prime minister, the committee will produce a second report suggesting how to tackle security problems in the restive south.

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29 Apr 04  |  Asia-Pacific
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30 Apr 04  |  Asia-Pacific
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30 Apr 04  |  Asia-Pacific
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28 Apr 04  |  Asia-Pacific

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