Foreign minister says Muslim countries understand situation in Tak Bai

http, Thailand
29 Oct. 2004

BANGKOK, Oct 29 (TNA) - Thai Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai
Friday told reporters that he received a positive response from his
counterparts in Muslim countries toward Tak Bai incident, in which
more than 80 Muslim men died while in the Thai army's custody after
a crackdown on a mass demon stration in southern border Narathiwat
province on Monday.

Mr. Surakiart said he had earlier made phone calls to explain the
government action to crackdown on Tak Bai Muslim protesters to foreign
ministers of Indonesia, Morocco, Bahrain,and Dr. Abdelouzhed Belkeziz,
the secretary-general of the Organization of Islamic Countries or
OIC which has 50 members.

He said Bahrain's prime minister made a direct phone call to offer
his morale support to Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

''They appreciated that Thailand explained itself quickly to them about
what happened in Tak Bai. They said they understood Thai government's
action well and promised to explain it to fellow countries. Bahrain
said it would support Thailand as it knew that we are peace and unity
loving people,'' said Mr. Surakiart.

The OIC secretary general said he was pleased to hear an explanation
and that Thailand has investigated the deaths of the protesters while
in the army's custody, he said, the OIC would also explain Thailand's
decision to Muslim members countries.

He said Morocco would help by explaining Thailand's situation to
Armenia, Tunisia, and Libya including other Muslim countries in the
middle east like Kuwait, Oman, and Saudi Arabia.

Confident that Thailand has cleared its bad mark among international
communities, Mr. Surakiart, however, acknowledged to the mistake by
the security forces in handling the situation which unnecessarily
caused a lot of deaths.

''I want to stress that we did not want to hurt our Muslim brothers. We
are family. It is worrisome and dangerous if some people have developed
a wrong perception that Thailand are against its own Muslim citizens.''
he said.

Mr. Surakiart said the United States also expressed its satisfaction
over Thailand's action to investigate into the deaths after it
previously criticized the kingdom for breaching human rights.

''Thailand has respected human rights and constitutional rights but
mistakes could happen. We will leave that to the investigation team
to show us the truth,'' he said, adding that the government would
certainly compensate the deaths and would help their families.

Responding to a question, the Thai foreign minister said other Muslim
countries were not worried that the situation would escalate because
of the Tak Bai incident.

''I think Malaysia would understand us and there should be no affect,''
he said.

Several Malaysian tourists were killed in a bomb blast at a bar in
Sungai Kolok District of southern border Narathiwat province last
night.(TNA)-E110