Thai PM visits violence-torn south after deadly attacks

Updated 13 December 2012
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Thai PM visits violence-torn south after deadly attacks

BANGKOK: Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra went to the south of Thailand on Thursday after attacks blamed on Muslim insurgents this week in which six people were killed, including an 11-month-old child and two teachers, who are increasingly seen as targets.
More than 5,000 people have been killed since 2004 in the low-level insurgency in three Muslim majority provinces in the predominantly Buddhist country.
Five teachers have been killed in the past six weeks — the militants see schools as a main element in state attempts to assimilate ethnic Malay Muslims — and Yingluck held meetings with teachers as well as security officials during her visit.
“Whatever happens, children need to have a safe place to learn. I thank teachers for having the courage to teach and I will ask for reinforcements and extra troops to ensure their security,” Yingluck told reporters.
Gunmen three adults and the baby in an attack on Tuesday at a tea shop in Narathiwat province.
Later that day, a headmistress and teacher were shot dead in the staff canteen of a school in Pattani province, 1,055 km (655 miles) south of the capital, Bangkok.
“Even before Tuesday’s attack it was fairly clear the insurgents had launched a new campaign targeting the education system in the region,” said Anthony Davis, a Thai-based analyst at security consulting firm IHS-Jane’s.
Part of an independent Malay Muslim sultanate until annexed by Thailand in 1909 Pattani, Narathiwat and Yala provinces have seen almost daily shootings and bomb attacks since January 2004, when the separatist insurgency by ethnic Malays resurfaced after simmering for decades.
The heavy-handed tactics of Yingluck’s brother, then premier Thaksin Shinawatra, were seen by many analysts as at least partly to blame for the intensification of the insurgency.
Since 2004, 5,206 people have been killed and 9,137 wounded, according to Deep South Watch, an organization that monitors the violence.
Classes have been suspended at 1,200 schools in the three provinces until next week to assess security for pupils and teachers.
More than 50 children have been killed and some 340 injured in the provinces bordering Malaysia since 2004, according to the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
UNICEF’s representative in Thailand, Bijaya Rajbhandari, called the attacks “a tragic, senseless and unacceptable act.”
Successive governments have spent more than 160 billion baht ($5 billion) in the past eight years to quell the violence but the insurgency has rumbled on.
Thailand’s National Security Council says it will deploy an extra 4,000 police to the region by April 2013 to reinforce some 60,000 members of security forces already stationed there.
The International Crisis Group said in a report this week the government should reverse the militarization of the south and end the culture of impunity for security forces, calling the insurgency “Southeast Asia’s most violent internal conflict.”
Civilians bear the brunt of the violence and the lack of accountability for crimes committed by security forces against Muslim villagers has increased distrust between residents and the state, the think-tank said.


Ethiopia says British museum must permanently return its artIfacts

Updated 29 min 26 sec ago
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Ethiopia says British museum must permanently return its artIfacts

  • The artifacts were plundered by British troops from the fortress of Emperor Tewodros II 150 years ago
  • Among the items on display at the Victoria and Albert Museum are sacred manuscripts and gold 

ADDIS ABABA: Britain must permanently return all artIfacts from Ethiopia held by the Victoria and Albert Museum and Addis Ababa will not accept them on loan, an Ethiopian government official said.
The call comes after the museum, one of London’s most popular tourist attractions, put Ethiopian treasures plundered by British forces on display.
“Well, it would be exciting if the items held at the V&A could be part of a long-term loan with a cultural institution in Ethiopia,” museum director Tristram Hunt said.
“These items have never been on a long-term loan in Ethiopia, but as we look to the future I think what we’re interested in are partnerships around conservation, interpretation, heritage management, and these need to be supported by government assistance so that institutions like the V&A can support sister institutions in Ethiopia.”
Among the items on display are sacred manuscripts and gold taken from the Battle of Maqdala 150 years ago, when British troops ransacked the fortress of Emperor Tewodros II.
The offer of a loan did not go far enough for Ethiopia.
“What we have asked (for) was the restitution of our heritage, our Maqdala heritage, looted from Maqdala 150 years ago. We presented our request in 2007 and we are waiting for it,” said government minister Hirut Woldemariam said.
Ephrem Amare, Ethiopian National Museum director, added: “It is clearly known where these treasures came from and whom they belong to. Our main demand has never been to borrow them. Ethiopia’s demand has always been the restoration of those illegally looted treasures. Not to borrow them.”
The V&A could not immediately be reached for further comment on Monday.
In launching the Maqdala 1868 exhibition of what Hunt called “stunning pieces with a complex history” this month, he said the display had been organized in consultation with the Ethiopian community in London.
“As custodians of these Ethiopian treasures, we have a responsibility to celebrate the beauty of their craftsmanship, shine a light on their cultural and religious significance and reflect on their living meaning, while being open about how they came to Britain,” he said in a blog on the museum website.