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Last Updated: Tuesday, 2 November, 2004, 13:48 GMT
Thai elder killed 'in revenge'
A Thai police officer transports a Buddhist monk on his motorcycle after a morning alms collecting in Pattani province, southern Thailand Sunday, Oct. 31, 2004.
Buddhists have been targeted during nine months of violence
A Buddhist leader in southern Thailand has been beheaded in apparent revenge for the deaths last week of 85 Muslims.

Local people found the head of the 58-year-old deputy village leader on a roadside in Narathiwat province.

The incident came as Thailand named a panel to investigate last week's deaths, and how dozens of people came to suffocate inside army trucks.

The army commander in charge of southern Thailand has been moved from his post and will return to Bangkok.

Lt-Gen Pisarn Wattanawongkeeree told reporters he had requested to be moved while the investigation was under way.

"I am ready to face any outcome of the investigation," he said.

The man found beheaded was a deputy village leader. Police in the Sukhirin district of Narathiwat province said he was thought to have been shot first, the Associated Press reported.


His corpse was discovered more than 1km (0.6 miles) away from his head. He is the second Buddhist to be beheaded in the region in recent months.

A hand-written note was found by the head, saying: "This is revenge for the innocent Muslim youths who were massacred at the Takbai protest," officials said.

Thailand's Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra is under fire for the handling of the Takbai protest, in which dozens of Muslims youths were bundled into army vans without enough air to breathe and 78 died.

Panel named

Seven others died during the protest itself, which was held outside a police station to demonstrate against the detention of six Muslim men on weapons charges.

On Tuesday, Mr Thaksin named the investigators who will launch an inquiry into the case.

The panel includes three Muslims. It will report its findings to the prime minister by 2 December.

Most of the survivors of Takbai have now been released, according to Reuters news agency.

Police have charged 58 people with unlawful gathering and threatening officials.

Another 131 men were obliged to take a 42-day job training course at another military camp, police said.

Islamic leaders had warned that the Takbai incident could trigger reprisal attacks in Thailand's south.

Just hours after the village leader's remains were found, a Buddhist family was injured in an ambush as they were heading home on a motorbike in Narathiwat.

More than 400 people have died so far this year in unrest in the region. The south of Thailand is home to many of the country's Muslim minority, who have long complained of discrimination by the authorities.

Suspected Muslim militants have targeted Buddhists - who make up the majority of Thailand - and officials, in shooting and bomb attacks, although Thai security forces have been responsible for many of the deaths.

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