Prayuth urges self-imposed curfew for teachers

Army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha on Wednesday urged teachers in the country's insurgency-racked south to stay at home after 6pm to avoid falling victim to militants as the new school year gets under way.

  • Published: 23/05/2013 at 01:49 AM
  • Newspaper section: news

Thailand's army chief General Prayut Chan-O-Cha (centre R) visits the country's restive south.

Nearly 160 teachers and other school staff have been killed during a nine-year-old insurgency that has gripped Thailand's Muslim-majority deep south, bordering Malaysia.

Recent rounds of peace talks between representatives of the rebels and Thai authorities have failed to stem the violence, leaving teachers fearful that they remain in the firing line as they return to school.

"I ask for your cooperation not to leave your houses after 6pm -- it will help reduce violence (against teachers)," Gen Prayuth said duriing a trip to Yala, in reply to a teacher who asked if the army could curb attacks on his profession.

Thousands of schools closed temporarily in December in protest at a lack of security for teachers, who are targeted by the militants for their perceived collaboration with the Thai state.

A leader of a southern teachers' union recognised the "goodwill" behind the general's remarks but rejected the suggestion of a self-imposed curfew.

"Teachers know they are a target... they know they have to take care of themselves, but to suggest they should not leave their homes after 6pm seems like an attack on our freedom," said Boonsom Thongsriplai.

"The attacks can happen anytime during the day or night, we think it is better to focus on how to take care of security," he added.

Thailand held its first official peace talks with representatives of the Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN) in Malaysia in March and another round in April, but deadly attacks have continued, embarrassing Thai security forces.

In April rebels involved in the talks said they wanted "liberation" from Thailand, something General Prayut appeared to reject on Wednesday.

"Violence must be solved swiftly... (but) I want to reassure (people) that Thailand is inseparable -- it's one kingdom," he said, adding there are around 140 so-called 'red zone' villages in the south responsible for the majority of the violence.

More than 5,500 people have been killed in near-daily bombings and shootings in three Muslim-majority provinces near Thailand's southern border with Malaysia since 2004.

Buddhist and Muslims alike fall victim to the shadowy militants, who target security forces, civilians and perceived representatives of state authority.

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Writer: AFP
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