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Last Updated: Wednesday, 15 June, 2005, 10:51 GMT 11:51 UK
Thai Buddhist beheaded in south
By Tony Cheng
BBC, Bangkok

A Thai soldier guards a group of Buddhist monks during their early morning rounds in Bacho, Thailand (June 2005)
The situation is tense in Thailand's southern provinces
A Buddhist man has been found beheaded in the majority Muslim province of Pattani in southern Thailand.

A note found next to the man's head claimed the murder was carried out in response to last week's arrest of a prominent Muslim student leader.

It was the fifth decapitation in a conflict that has claimed more than 700 lives in the past 18 months.

The note next to the severed head of retired teacher Kamol Chuneth carried a message obviously intended for police.

The note said that the authorities had arrested the wrong man.

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

The person it appeared to be referring to is a local Muslim student leader, who was recently arrested and charged with involvement in the ongoing unrest.

He is currently being held in the capital, Bangkok.

Since the violence escalated in January 2004, the death toll has continued to rise steadily in a conflict between local Muslim separatist groups and the Buddhist Thai authorities.

Many Muslims have complained of discrimination by the central government, particularly in education.

Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra publicly stated last month that his government would tone down its hardline stance on the issue.

However the almost daily murders in the area appear to signify he is no closer to solving the problem.

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