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Last Updated: Wednesday, 27 October, 2004, 12:19 GMT 13:19 UK
Press attacks PM over deaths
Bodies being removed from the scene
Carrying away the dead

Newspapers in Thailand have expressed outrage at the deaths of at least 78 Muslim protesters after a demonstration in the south of country, pointing the finger of blame at the government and Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

"It was yet another black day for Thaksin Shinawatra's premiership," comments The Nation, in a front-page attack headlined "Body count spirals during PM's reign".

"Everything else that has marred his highly controversial reign now pales in comparison," it continues.

"His contempt for human rights has resulted in a scattering of personal tragedies, masked by the proclaimed success of the war on drugs. But now this flawed trait of his leadership is threatening to plunge the country into the bitterest and most detrimental divide between the people and the state."

The people have been pitted against the state, and communal violence is threatening to escalate
The Nation

Describing the deaths as "a major tragedy", The Nation believes it could have been prevented "if only the victims had been treated more humanely"

'Precarious state'

"Thaksin may not have been directly responsible for them being crammed into military trucks like pigs headed for slaughterhouses, but the troops' demonstration of hatred and disregard for humanitarianism simply reflected how the country is being governed."

The daily fears that "the deep South will continue to burn".

"We have found ourselves in the most precarious state yet as far as the troubled region is concerned. No longer is our problem about coping with cells of bandits playing hide and seek with the authorities. Somehow, the people have been pitted against the state, and communal violence is threatening to escalate."

The Nation calls on Mr Thaksin to take "a long hard look at himself".

Something went terribly wrong
Bangkok Post

"Something went terribly wrong", says an editorial in the Bangkok Post. "Monday marked another black day in the history of the restive South."

The paper recognises that the police were facing a difficult situation, and believes that the use of tear gas and water cannon was justified to disperse the "unruly" crowd.

"But something went terribly wrong in the handling of the arrested protesters," says the daily, arguing that they may have been weakened by their Ramadan fasting and more susceptible to the rigours of being packed into military lorries.

Lessons to learn

"The tragedy on Monday might deal a serious blow to the government's efforts to win back the trust and confidence of our southern Muslim brethren. Trust is vital in the war against Islamic militancy bent on creating an Islamic state in southern Thailand."

Calling on the authorities to carry out a proper investigation and compensate the families of the victims, the editorial concludes:

"Monday's dreadful tragedy should serve as a valuable lesson for the government, not just on how it should handle potentially violent protests, but also how it should treat arrested suspects with unbiased fairness, dignity and respect for their human rights."

Brutal approach by the Thai security forces
Indonesia's Suara Merdeka

A photograph of one of the trucks loaded with protesters was featured on the front page of the Thai-language paper Matichon.

Regional fears

Regional newspapers also expressed concern. In Singapore, The Straits Times noted that "the cause and effect is troubling enough, without resurgent Islam having re-energised a dormant secessionist lobby".

Indonesia's Suara Merdeka condemns "the brutal approach taken by the Thai security forces to crush the insurgency of the separatist Muslims in southern Thailand".

Malaysia's Utusan Malaysia is not surprised that "for Muslims in southern Thailand, the latest incident has once again aroused their anger towards the government, which has so far been seen as discriminating against Muslims concerning development and the economy".

Another Malaysian paper, the Chinese language Nanyang Siang Pau, agrees the Thai government needs to put in place an economic development plan which "will actually improve people's lives, and will be an effective measure for cutting the umbilical cord linking the people and radicals".

It calls for Malaysia and Thailand to "step up cooperation, promote a united development plan for the border regions, and improve the livelihood of the people".

"Only in this way can Thailand take both stop-gap measures and treat the root cause, using two methods to quell the turmoil in southern Thailand."

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

Thailand to probe protest deaths
27 Oct 04 |  Asia-Pacific
In pictures: Thai protesters mourned
27 Oct 04 |  In Pictures

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