Friday, April 30, 2004

Air of normalcy returns to Krue Se

PATTANI: A day after the bloody clashes between security forces and insurgents, a semblance of normalcy has returned to the area around the Krue Se mosque, about 10km from here.

In an atmosphere of uneasy calm, the people went about their daily chores yesterday, under the watchful eyes of security personnel.

The mosque, located on the Narathiwat-Pattani main highway, had been cleaned up just hours after the gunbattle which left 32 insurgents and three Thai policemen dead.

(Seventy-eight other people were killed in clashes in two other southern provinces of Yala and Narathiwat).

By 9pm on Wednesday, when local and foreign journalists were allowed into the historic building, the mosque committee members and villagers had finished washing and tidying up the place.

NO TENSION: Muslims praying at the Krue Se mosque which was used by the insurgents as a refuge during a gunbattle with the security forces on Wednesday.
However, reminders of the battle were everywhere – the furniture and other wooden structures bore the scars of bullets while the walls were pock-marked.

A Thai police spokesman said roadblocks set up 2km from the scene were lifted at 9pm to allow traffic to pass while a curfew had been imposed in certain sensitive areas.

According to the villagers, police personnel, though not very visible, were everywhere.

The police presence was more visible in the daytime as local people turned up for a look at the mosque and to bury the dead at various Muslim cemeteries here.

The Krue Se mosque is one of the six heritage attractions in Pattani.

Some of the villagers expressed sadness that a mosque had been attacked and urged both the government and insurgents to take their fight elsewhere as such incidents had affected the entire province.

“As it is, we are considered a backward province, and now comes this violent outbreak that has caused the number of Malaysian tourists to drop drastically,” said a villager.

In Krabi, police said the insurgents gunned down were all locals, who were out to create unrest.

Acting commissioner general Soontorn Saikwan said the insurgents were armed with M-16 and AK47 rifles, grenades and pistols.

“This is a local group with no foreign involvement whatsoever,” he said in an interview with LOURDES CHARLES.

“I have directed our policemen to beef up security and patrols in the southern region and to be on the alert for possible attacks,” he said after closing the 15th departmental review of the Thailand-Malaysia working committee on criminal activities here yesterday.

The STar:: 30/4/2004

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