posted on Nov, 2 2004 @ 08:21 AM
BANGKOK, Thailand -- A local official has been beheaded in the south of Thailand in what appeared to be a revenge killing after 85 people died at the
hands of government forces last week.
Thai police said 58-year-old deputy village chief Run Tulae was beheaded around 8 a.m. (8 p.m. ET Monday) and his head was found in a plastic bag on
the side of a road in Narathiwat province accompanied by a hand-written note.
The note read: "This was less than what has been done to the innocent" in an apparent reference to the death of 85 Muslim protesters who died on
Tulae, who was a Buddhist, went missing late Monday night, police said.
Thailand's prime minister has said he will heed the words of the nation's king to use a "gentle approach" in the aftermath of the deaths.
"The king is very concerned about the situation and urges all security forces and state officials not to harm the people any longer," Thaksin
Shinawatra told reporters on Monday.
Thaksin was criticized last week after 78 protesters died of suffocation while being transported to a detention center at a military barracks in
Thailand's restive, predominantly Muslim south following a riot.
Officials admitted the men were crammed tightly into army trucks for up to six hours, saying they died of dehydration or suffocation while piled atop
Another seven died during rioting, apparently shot by security forces, setting off a spate of attacks in the nation's south.
Two bombs went off a marketplace in southern Thailand Friday morning, wounding 20 people -- eight civilians and 12 police -- in the neighboring
Muslim-dominated province of Yala.
While Thaksin said early on that Ramadan fasting was a contributing factor in the deaths of the protesters, he later admitted that security forces
made mistakes handling the rioters and set up an investigation.
"The government is humbly taking the advice of His Majesty the king to use the gentle approach and allow local participation in resolving the
problem," Thaksin said.
Although a constitutional monarch, the king has stepped in to end bloodshed and defuse political crises in the past. His power comes largely from
great popularity and a lifetime of work on behalf of the country's have-nots.
Islamic leaders have warned the deaths could spark more sectarian violence in the Muslim south of predominantly Buddhist Thailand, where more than 400
people have died in an upswing in sectarian violence this year.
Violence has troubled the region for decades, but has worsened this year.
Southern residents, who are mainly ethnically Malay and not Thai, claim the central government discriminates against them.
Thailand's government has blamed the rise in violence on domestic separatists taking a cue from other Muslim extremist movements around the world.
But there is speculation that international Muslim extremists are present in the region or that insurgents are retaliating against Thaksin's
heavy-handed war on drugs, which affects the economically desperate region.