Seventy-eight Muslims suffocate in military lorries after riot in Thailand

Click to follow
The Independent Online

At least 78 Muslims have died in military custody after being arrested at a riot in southern Thailand. Police had shot dead six demonstrators during the trouble in the small town of Takbai.

At least 78 Muslims have died in military custody after being arrested at a riot in southern Thailand. Police had shot dead six demonstrators during the trouble in the small town of Takbai.

The crushed bodies of the victims were found after security forces packed 1,300 protesters into closed lorries and transported them to an army barracks five hours' away. Most of them suffocated during the journey. The government has imposed curfews on the region and is braced for bloodshed in three troubled provinces in which 400 people have died in unrest this year.

The arrests followed a street protest outside a police station, when 1,500 demonstrators demanded the release of six men detained for allegedly distributing weapons to Islamic separatists. The noisy gathering erupted into violence.

In an attempt to disperse the crowd, security forces used fire hoses and tear gas, then resorted to live ammunition, killing six protesters and wounding 20. Police interrogated the demonstrators to find out why so many youths were mobilised during the Ramadan fasting period.

Monday's riot was the region's worst outbreak of violence since April, when 106 men were shot dead while wielding machetes in assaults on military posts.

Manote Graiwong, a police chief, said that many of Monday's demonstrators were armed and appeared to have consumed methamphetamines. But Abdulraman Abdulsamad, the chairman of the Islamic Council in Narathiwat, said: "I believe that hell will break out."

The Prime Minister, Thaksin Shinawatra, was quick to praise the security forces for ending the riot. "They have done a great job," he said. "They [the protesters] really set out to cause trouble, so we had to take drastic action against them."

The premier, who faces elections in February, is under pressure to end the violence in the Muslim-majority provinces that border Malaysia. But development aid, which was promised to the poorest regions this year, has yet to arrive.

Comments