Conflict in Thailand: Unrest in Muslim south largely political legacy

Conflict in Thailand: Unrest in Muslim south largely political legacy
Muhammad Amin, 19, a resident of Thailand's southernmost region, lost his left leg and his job in an explosion set off by terrorists.

BANGKOK - An ordinary decision and bad luck cost Muhammad Amin, 19, his leg.

In the late afternoon of April 6, the young clothing shop employee was riding a motorcycle on his way home from work and was about to pass a car on a main street in Yala Province in Thailand's southernmost region. The car suddenly exploded, throwing him to the ground.

Muhammad tried to get up but found that his left leg had been blown off below the knee. He crawled from the scene and was taken to a hospital.

Released from the hospital four months later, Muhammad quit his job because he had lost the use of his right arm in addition to the lost left leg. As the sole breadwinner of a seven-member family, with an artificial leg he struggles to earn enough to support them.

Thailand is a Buddhist country, but 90% of the residents in its southernmost region are Muslims. While Muslim rebels seeking independence from Thailand have repeatedly staged shootings and explosions targeting Buddhists, Muslim bystanders are often caught up in the fighting, as in the case of Muhammad.

Over the past decade, 6,200 people have been killed in insurgent attacks.

Legacy attacks

The terrorism is one legacy of former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

Thaksin, who took office in 2001, drew attention for his aggressive public order policy, which was criticised especially because of anti-terrorism measures adopted in the southernmost region of Thailand. In 2004, for example, some 80 Muslim demonstrators were captured, crammed into army trucks and died, mostly of suffocation.

The government's hard-line stance prompted retaliatory terror attacks, and the violence continues to this day.

The unrest in the southernmost region is not limited to religious conflict; it has also led to political turbulence.

The independence movement by Muslims began in the 1960s, but the situation stabilized in the 1980s as then Prime Minister Prem Tinsulanonda took a moderate approach that pardoned defectors to the government.

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