Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra vowed Saturday to purge Muslim-dominated southern Thailand of illegal weapons being used daily in attacks. Four Buddhists were killed in the latest outburst of insurgent violence, police said.
The prime minister said he would travel today to the southern province of Narathiwat, scene of some of the most intense rebel activity, to supervise the operation.
“I will have to launch a massive crackdown on weapons. We will use both a soft approach and an iron fist to sweep out these people. Innocent people don’t have to fear or worry,” Thaksin said in his weekly radio address.
Thaksin’s government has been sharply criticized at home and abroad for using strong-arm methods rather than trying to win over the country’s Muslim minority.
In a spate of apparent revenge killings, suspected Islamic separatists have targeted Buddhist monks, shopkeepers and students after 78 Muslims died in police custody last month following a deadly riot.
In the latest attacks on Buddhists, a 72-year-old man, a 40-year-old shopkeeper, a 17-year-old student and a 54-year-old man have been killed since Friday, authorities said.
Since the beginning of the year, more than 400 people have died in the south, which has a long history of Muslim separatist movements.