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Last Updated: Tuesday, 16 November, 2004, 18:41 GMT
Thai Queen's plea to end violence
By Kylie Morris
BBC News, Bangkok

Portrait of Queen Sirikit of Thailand
Queen Sirikit called for an end to the violence
The Queen of Thailand has made a rare public appeal calling for an end to the violence in the country's south.

During a 45-minute televised address, Queen Sirikit spoke of the suffering of ordinary Thais caught in the violence.

Earlier, Thai PM Thaksin Shinawatra blamed the violence on Thai Muslims who had studied Islam abroad.

He denied suggestions that foreign organisations were behind the attacks, which have left 30 dead in the last three weeks.

Queen Sirikit was addressing politicians and other community leaders at the Royal Palace in Bangkok on Tuesday, but her words were broadcast to the nation.

Revered

TROUBLED SOUTH
Home to most of Thailand's 4% Muslim minority
Muslim rebels fought the government up to the mid-80s
Suspected militants have upped attacks this year, targeting Buddhists
Security forces' response criticised by rights groups

Thailand's revered royal family rarely becomes engaged in the public business of politics and the decision to broadcast her declaration was a break with tradition.

While the queen has a strong bond with southern Thailand - she spends months in the Muslim majority provinces every year - her role is normally one of quiet diplomacy.

She urged people to help the government solve the problems in the south and to show disapproval at the violence against innocent people.

She recounted the stories of police officers and civil servants who have died in ambushes and attacks by so-called militants.

At least 500 people have been killed in clashes between security forces and militants this year, including at least 85 Muslims at a protest last month in Takbai, in Narathiwat province.

An investigation is underway into what happened at Takbai. The UN has urged that it be swift, independent and thorough.


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