Thai PM orders investigation into army shooting of four Muslims

February 1st, 2012 - 2:56 am ICT by BNO News  

BANGKOK (BNO NEWS) — Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra on Tuesday ordered an investigation into the shooting deaths of four Muslims by paramilitaries in the restive south on Sunday, local media reported.

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra ordered army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha to investigate the incident and report his findings in detail immediately. She said if those killed and wounded in the incident were found to be innocent villagers, the government would fully take care of them, the Bangkok Post reported.

On Sunday night, four people were killed and five were wounded when Thai army rangers opened fire on a pick-up truck in the province of Pattani. Gen. Prayuth said if the authorities were found to be at fault, those responsible would be punished through the justice process.

Lt-Gen Udomchai Thammasarorat on Tuesday morning held a press conference to give details about the shootings and said the assailants fired M79 grenades at an operational base in Nong Chik district before the shooting.

He added that a pick-up truck carrying a number of people was stopped for a search after rangers were dispatched to intercept the attackers, the newspaper reported. Some of the men on board got out of the pick-up truck and then opened fire at the rangers, he claimed.

Pattani governor Theera Mintrasak said on Tuesday a committee of inquiry will investigate the incident in order to ensure justice. The inquiry was expected to be completed within 30 days.

Angkhana Neelapaijit, chairwoman of the Justice for Peace Foundation, called on Deputy Prime Minister Yutthasak Sasiprapa to show responsibility for giving out incorrect information on Sunday’s shootings. Yutthasak said those killed and wounded in the shooting were believed to have caused unrest, but residents say they were villagers who were on their way to a funeral.

“This shooting will make it more difficult for the government to win the trust of the people. Gen Yutthasak and the Region 4 Internal Security Operations Command must come out and admit a mistake was made, and declare publicly that the culprits will be punished within the justice system. They should not talk only about reparations,” Angkhana said.

Since 2004, over 4,800 people have been killed in Thailand’s southern regions of Pattani, Yala, and Narathiwat, as local insurgent groups renewed their fighting efforts against the government. More than 7,000 people have been injured in violent incidents launched by separatist militants.

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