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Last Updated: Saturday, 31 July, 2004, 14:00 GMT 15:00 UK
Thai PM admits 'excessive force'
A Thai policeman stands guard over the body of a dead soldier
Thai security forces have been accused of being heavy-handed
Thailand's prime minister has conceded soldiers may have used excessive force when they stormed a mosque in April, killing 32 young Muslims.

The raid marked the bloodiest day of an uprising that began in January.

Thaksin Shinawatra said troops had felt under pressure to quell violence by militants in the Muslim-majority south.

A report critical of the use of force is due to be made public soon. Mr Thaksin said lessons should be learnt from the mosque raid.

Security forces armed with heavy weapons went into the historic Krue Se mosque on 28 April and killed militants who were armed only with machetes and a single gun.

'Our lesson'

A wave of violence began in the south of the country on 4 January 2004 when armed men attacked an army camp, killing four soldiers.

They walked away with hundreds of weapons, including assault rifles.

In his weekly radio address, Mr Thaksin said they would learn from what happened at the mosque.

THAILAND'S TROUBLED SOUTH
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

"Let this be our lesson; we must be more patient and more training is needed to correct and improve on such an incident in the future," he said.

"The security officials at the scene were acting under pressure because the militants robbed guns and ammunition so security officials used heavy weapons in retaliation," Mr Thaksin said.

An independent committee last week handed a report to the government criticising it for its overwhelming use of force.

But the report cleared the military of any wrong-doing.

The report is expected to be made public over the coming days.

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 violence was 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.


SEE ALSO:
Blasts rock Thai Buddhist temples
16 May 04  |  Asia-Pacific
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
UN demands Thai clashes inquiry
30 Apr 04  |  Asia-Pacific
Profile: Thaksin Shinawatra
28 Apr 04  |  Asia-Pacific


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