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Once more: This year elections

Posted by hasekamp on 29 June 2007 at 17:41 PM
Thailand's Prime Minister, Surayud Chulanont, on Thursday confirmed once more that elections will be held this year. "The sooner, the better," Surayud was quoted by the Bangkok Post's webnews as saying. "If all the related parties are ready, then there is no need to wait." There is no reason to delay the polls until 2008, he said. However, he said it is very difficult for the government now to decide on the exact date for the general election until the draft constitution is finished and the public has voted in a referendum on the charter. While referring to the possible return of ousted premier, Thaksin Shinawatra, Surayud affirmed that he could guarantee Thaksin's safety. "I don't own a life insurance company," he said. "But I will guarantee his safety." He added that the government will not interfere with the justice system in judging the concealed assets accusations against the deposed premier, nor will the government be involved in any issue over whether Thaksin will seek asylum abroad. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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All domestic traffic to Don Muang

Posted by hasekamp on 29 June 2007 at 17:38 PM
The Prime Minister, Gen. Surayud Chulanont, indicates that the relocation of domestic flights from Suvarnabhumi Airport to Don Muang Airport would enhance the operational efficiency of Suvarnabhumi Airport. Gen. Surayud Chulanont says the relocation of domestic airlines to Don Muang Airport during the renovation of Suvarnabhumi Airport's taxi-way will not affect the airlines' operation. He says the idea for having two international airports would depend on the consideration of many relevant agencies. During the initial stage, Suvarnabhumi Airport will be the center for international airlines while Don Muang Airport will help support them. The construction of the Airport Link project is underway, with an aim to facilitate the passengers and speed up the traveling time between the two airports. (Source: Public Relations Department)


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Buddhism no State Religion

Posted by hasekamp on 29 June 2007 at 17:32 PM
The Constitution Drafting Committee on Friday rejected a proposal to enshrine Buddhism as the national religion in the next charter. Outside Parliament, where the charter writers met, monks and laypeople ended a weeks-long protest and hunger strike that had demanded official, constitutional recognition of Buddhism. The committee voted 66 to 19 against against a proposal to declare Buddhism the national religion in Thailand's 18th constitution, currently being drafted in the aftermath of a military coup on September 19, 2006 that annulled the previous charter. Thailand has long been a secular state where all religions are allowed freedom and equality under the constitution, although Buddhism is the professed faith of 90 per cent of the 65 million population. A minority of Thailand's Buddhist monks have been pressing the constitution drafters to include Buddhism as the national religion, either to create political instability or out of fears that the religion is being marginalized, analysts said. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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More time for Thaksin

Posted by hasekamp on 27 June 2007 at 16:44 PM
The Department of Special Investigation has given ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra and his wife another month to report for interrogation on charges of assets concealment - although Mr Thaksin says they don't intend to show up at all. DSI director-general Sunai Manomai-udom said on Wednesday Mr Thaksin, his wife Khunying Potjaman and other defendants must now report and answer to charges of assets concealment by July 26. The new date was fixed by the DSI after Mrs Potjaman's relative Bussaba Damapong, a former SC Asset executive, failed to appear Wednesday to hear the charges laid against her. Earlier the DSI had ordered Mr Thaksin, his wife, Mrs. Bussaba and other SC Asset executives to report to the department to hear charges of fraud by this Friday.
We don't know what the DSI thinks. Mr Thaksin won't show up at all, ever, as long as the current military government is in power, of course. Who would? (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Thaksin not to return this week

Posted by hasekamp on 26 June 2007 at 17:33 PM
Exiled prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra will not return to Thailand to face charges this week as ordered by police as he fears for his safety, his lawyer said Tuesday. Public prosecutors said they'll seek Thaksin's extradition if he fails to meet a Friday deadline set by police to face charges on sales of Shin Corp stocks to Temesak Holdings. "He will not return to answer the charges because of safety concerns," Noppadol Pattama said. Thaksin has claimed that he feared of his safety if he returns home, while the military junta that ousted him last year and the Thai government guaranteed his safety. (Source: The Nation)


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THAI food has a bad name

Posted by hasekamp on 26 June 2007 at 17:29 PM
The poor quality of the food served by Thai Airways International (THAI) tops the list of complaints among passengers using the Thai national flag carrier, according to the airline. The list of passenger complaints for April, which recently reached Transport Minister Theera Haocharoen, pits the airline's meals at the top of the five most common complaints. "What passengers complained most about were meals which did not live up expectations, especially on outbound flights from Bangkok. That was followed by complaints they did not receive special meals as requested," the survey says. In-flight entertainment was second on the list of areas where the airline could improve, followed by attitude and performance of cabin crew, baggage handling on arrival, and defects or malfunctions of cabin equipment. No in-seat TVs on aircraft was the second most common complaint. Passengers were also not happy with crew who were impolite or unwilling to perform their duties, it adds. The airline compiles complaints and commendations every month. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Airport touts not yet eliminated

Posted by hasekamp on 25 June 2007 at 13:07 PM
Police who promised to end the operations of the operations of cheating unlicensed black-plate taxis and illegal tour guides at Suvarnabhumi airport by mid-June have admitted a first-round defeat - but will try again. Last month police promised a major crackdown that would take the touts and illegal guides out of the airport within 15 days. But police have essentially given up. The new plan to halt the activities of illegal guides-cum-taxi drivers who prey on visitors requires action by the Airports of Thailand. AoT chairman Saprang Kalayanamitr gave the request to use tax laws to attack the so-called black-taxi rogues weak support, agreeing to discuss the matter with the Revenue Department this week. Pol Maj-Gen Wut said 36 gangs of illegal taxi drivers are active at Suvarnabhumi airport. They work for companies that between them operate about 3,000 illegal taxis. Their operations damage the national image because some of their customers are assaulted and robbed. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Economy waits for democracy

Posted by hasekamp on 25 June 2007 at 13:04 PM
Confidence in Thailand's economy will be restored if the general election is held soon, according to a prominent Thai industrialist. Speaking at a seminar entitled "Think for Thailand, Think Ahead" held by the Journalists' Association of Thailand, Payungsak Chatisuthipol, vice chairman of the Federation of Thai Industries, conceded that the country's economic fundamentals, which helps safeguard impacts at present, appeared to lose momentum due to the current political woes. This could be witnessed by an increase in private consumption by only 2.2 per cent in the first five months of this year compared with 3.1 per cent in the same period last year. Private investment contracted 1.4 per cent so far this year while that of last year expanded 3.9 per cent. Mr. Payungsak foresees that private investment will grow no more than 1.5 per cent for the whole of this year, due to being dampened by hefty oil prices. The baht might strengthen to 34.5 to the US dollar, which could affect exports. Although interest rates will be low, the public dares not spend and invest because they lack confidence. (Source: Thai News Agency)


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Monks cancel demonstration

Posted by hasekamp on 24 June 2007 at 17:18 PM
Buddhist monks and laypersons, members of the Buddhist Network of Thailand who have been rallying in front of Parliament House, demanding that the drafters of the new constitution officially recognize Buddhism as Thailand's religion in the charter, have decided not to demonstrate there this Wednesday and Thursday as planned earlier. Gen. Thongchai Kuasakul, a core leader of the Buddhist Network of Thailand, said Sunday that the decision not to hold the rally at Parliament House Wednesday and Thursday came after discussions with senior Buddhist monks who said they believed the protest, if held, would aggravate tensions in the country. Earlier, it was believed that about 50,000 Buddhist monks and laypersons would gather there on both days as members of the Constitution Drafting Assembly were due to deliberate whether Buddhism should be declared in a clause of the charter as Thailand's national religion. (Source: Thai News Agency)


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Next year new government

Posted by hasekamp on 21 June 2007 at 21:39 PM
Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont on Thursday voiced confidence in a possible move to bring forward the date of the general election November 25, enabling a new government to be formed by the end of this year. Gen. Surayud said he believed the new government could be formed within 45 days of the election. Should the election be set for November 25, he said, instead of late December, the new government could be established prior to the New Year holiday. He said the move to bring forward the election by 20 days would not negatively affect the application procedures for establishing new political parties. (Source: Thai News Agency)


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Thaksin is too busy for trial

Posted by hasekamp on 21 June 2007 at 21:36 PM
Deposed Thai premier Thaksin Shinawatra, who on Thursday made a bid in London to buy the Manchester City football club for 81.6 million pounds (162.5 million dollars), will not return to Thailand this month to face corruption charges, his lawyer said. The Manchester City board has said it will back Thaksin's attempted takeover of the club after the former prime minister, living in exile in London since his overthrow by a coup on September 19, 2006, lodged a formal bid via UK Sports Investment, a vehicle controlled indirectly by Shinawatra and his son and daughter. The bid, apparently designed to impress Thailand's football-loving public, was well timed to keep Thaksin preoccupied with business in London and away from Bangkok, where he faces a host of legal challenges, but Noppodol denied any connection. Noppodol added that Thaksin was unlikely to return to Thailand to face corruption charges any time soon. On Tuesday, the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) summoned Thaksin and his wife Potjaman to return to Thailand by June 29 to face charges that they concealed the true extent of their ownership in a company listed on the stock exchange. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Bill to tighten security

Posted by hasekamp on 20 June 2007 at 12:27 PM
The cabinet yesterday approved a draft national security bill which would give sweeping powers to the Internal Security Operations Command (Isoc) to handle ''new forms of threats'' to the country, a cabinet meeting source said. The bill is aimed at enabling Isoc to more efficiently handle acts of sabotage, transnational crime and propaganda. Article 6 provides for the setting up of a national security committee to be headed by the prime minister, the source said. The bill also empowers the Isoc chief to implement security measures such as searches without seeking approval from the prime minister. Proposed by the National Security Council (NSC), the bill is also aimed at accommodating the planned restructuring of Isoc. The Isoc revamp is seen by many observers as a move to pave the way for Council for National Security chairman Gen Sonthi Boonyaratkalin to head the restructured agency after he retires as army chief in September. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Distracting billboards

Posted by hasekamp on 20 June 2007 at 12:24 PM
Prime Minister Surayud Chualnont has ordered Interior Minister Aree Wongarya to "resolve" what he calls a problem of too many billboards on the road leading to Suvarnabhumi Airport. The Prime Minister told the cabinet on Tuesday that there were 60 billboards along the approaches to the airport, and said they are distracting, Radio Thailand reported. Deputy Finance Minister Sommai Phasi jumped in on the premier's side, the report said. Mr Sommai felt the billboards might cause trouble to commuters. The minister put the onus on the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration "to take care of the matter," Radio Thailand reported, although just how the BMA could fix a problem in another province was not clear. Mr Sommai suggested that the BMA should consider raising taxes for the billboards. But the airport and most of the signs are not in Bangkok, but in next-door Samut Prakan province. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Giant Swing in action

Posted by hasekamp on 19 June 2007 at 15:24 PM
The Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) will organize a two-day celebration for the new Giant Swing in August, Bangkok Governor Apirak Kosayodhin said yesterday. The new swing - made from six teak trees over 100 years old and felled in Phrae - will replace the old swing that has been scarred by weather for 224 years. The red wooden landmark, known in Thai as Sao Ching Cha on Bamrungmuang Road is a national historic site. Apirak revealed that the BMA was informed that His Majesty the King had accepted its request to preside over the celebration, which the city initially planned to hold in August at the "Lan Khon Muang" plaza in front of the City Hall. The exact date will be determined later. The city plans to organise the Giant Swing celebration over two days. The first day will include historical exhibitions and general celebrations, while the second day will be devoted to royal-presiding Brahmin and Buddhist rites plus the Fine Arts Department's Khon drama about the Bangkok Capital City building for the royal audience, Apirak said. (Source: The Nation)


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Thaksin now ordered to return

Posted by hasekamp on 19 June 2007 at 15:17 PM
The Department of Special Investigation on Tuesday charged ousted premier Thaksin Shinawatra and his wife Potjaman with concealing assets and ordered them to return to Thailand within 10 days to hear the charges in person. His lawyer Noppadol Pattama told reporters he wasn't sure what would happen. "Thaksin's return depends on the timing," said Mr Noppadol. Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont said he would guarantee the safety of the ousted premier. "The government ensures his safety," Gen Surayud told reporters Tuesday. "There is no need to consult the Council for National Security," as the ruling military junta is called.
But the CNS chairman, Gen Sonthi Boonyaratkalin has said several times that he would be concerned for Mr Thaksin's safety if he returned to Thailand now. Gen Surayud cautioned reporters that "It doesn't mean that the CNS would do anything harmful to Thaksin." (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Intellectujal Property fair

Posted by hasekamp on 18 June 2007 at 15:47 PM
Thailand has invited its fellow members in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to join with some members of the European Union (EU) to participate in an intellectual property (IP) fair to be held November 16-18, a senior commerce ministry official said. Intellectual Property Department director-general Puangrat Asavapisit said the fair would be held at a major mall here in order to celebrate the 80th birthday of His Majesty the King on December 5. Each participating country will display patented innovative products which would enable Thai manufacturers to further develop on commercial basis, said Mrs. Puangrat. The Intellectual Property Department will also organize another IP fair July 20-22 at the Queen Sirikit National Convention Center in Bangkok, but only Thai-made products will be on display for sale, she said. (Source: Thai News Agency)


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Thai fruit for Bejing Olympics?

Posted by hasekamp on 18 June 2007 at 15:39 PM
Thai fruit will compete as food for athletes in the upcoming 2008 Olympic Games in China, said a senior Thai official. Agriculture and Co-Operatives Minister Thira Sutabutr said the ministry will select 20 fresh and processed fruits and fruit products as symbols of Thailand, for entry into a competition to select official Beijing Olympic Game fruits, which will be held August 8. A preliminary selection committee has been set up to judge local competitors to determine Thailand's
entries, with criteria and other requirements to be disclosed at the end of June. The winning fruits will be announced in July. The contest in China will help promote Thai fruit in wider Chinese and international markets, according to the minister. The ministry expects to increase Thai fruit exports by one billion baht this year, expecting that exports will substantially top last year's recorded Bt12 billion. (Source: Thai News Agency)


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Junta: Thaksin may come back

Posted by hasekamp on 16 June 2007 at 19:32 PM
Thai Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont said on Saturday the government is ready to provide security if ousted premier Thaksin Shinawatra is to return to Thailand, but it is up to him to decide when is the appropriate time to come back. "It's all up to Thaksin's decision," Surayud said during a television interview on Saturday morning, adding that he is ready to talk to Thaksin if he contacts him. "I've been ready (to talk to Thaksin) since the past nine months," said the premier. He added that Thaksin has called him twice since he took office, and the last time Thaksin called was months ago. He said he believes the ousted premier will try to talk to him on the freezing assets of him and his family. (Source: Thai News Agency)


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Rain spoils demonstration

Posted by hasekamp on 16 June 2007 at 19:17 PM
Police blockades and heavy monsoon rains put a damper on an anti-military demonstration Saturday night at Bangkok's Royal Grounds calling for the dissolution of the junta that staged the September 19, 2006, coup. Organizers had claimed the rally, which had drawn less than 10,000 supporters by 9:00 p.m. Saturday, would march on Army headquarters on Rajdamnoen Avenue and the residence of Privy Council president Prem Tinsulanonda to demand the dismantling of last year's coup and the restoration of the Thai Rak Thai party under the leadership of deposed premier Thaksin Shinawatra. But with an estimated 2,000 police outside Army Headquarters and at a bridge on Rajdamnoen Avenue to block the anticipated march, and another 4,000 positioned around Sanam Luang - the Royal Grounds - a site for many past protests in Thailand's recent history, the demonstration appeared to lose its fighting spirit. Police, although determined to halt the march on army headquarters and other targets, did not use violence. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Everything under control

Posted by hasekamp on 15 June 2007 at 15:04 PM
The Council for National Security (CNS) yesterday insisted that it has the political situation under control as anti-coup demonstrators gear up for a mass rally tomorrow. CNS chairman Gen Sonthi Boonyaratkalin said authorities had learned lessons from the May 1992 uprising, and are now better prepared for acts of provocation. Close surveillance has been ordered for groups including operators of motorcycle taxis and public vans who might be manipulated into stirring up trouble, he said. He said rumors about a counter-coup which swept the city on Wednesday night and about a military crackdown on protesters are nothing unusual. The rumors spread following the Assets Scrutiny Committee's order to freeze the assets of deposed prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra and his family on Monday. Anti-coup groups have been rallying daily at Sanam Luang, and have called for a big turn-out tomorrow for a march on army headquarters. Gen Sonthi admitted he has made contact with protest leaders through mediators. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Operation for the Queen

Posted by hasekamp on 15 June 2007 at 15:02 PM
Her Majesty the Queen had an operation on her left hand at Phra Mongkutklao hospital yesterday to treat a locked middle finger, a statement from the Royal Household Bureau said. His Majesty the King visited her at the hospital after the operation. Her Majesty has been advised to rest for two weeks. The Queen has experienced occasional stiffness in the middle finger of her left hand, a condition known as lock finger. Her condition improved considerably after she had physical therapy and took medication. But the finger became stiff again, causing difficulty in her activities. Orthopaedic surgeons agreed the Queen needed an operation to loosen fibrotic tissue around the finger tendons. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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New Thai dictionary

Posted by hasekamp on 8 June 2007 at 15:52 PM
The Royal Institute plans to release the first-ever Thai language dictionary for teens with wild entries including Chiew Chiew, Dek Waent and Ab Baew. The dictionary will come out at the end of the year. "The New Words Dictionary will feature about 1,000 new words and phrases, providing a reference and a snapshot into the modern world," said Karnchana Nacaskul, who chairs the dictionary production committee at the same institute which earlier respelled Don Muang as Don Mueang when the old airport reopened in March. The committee picked up new, widely-used words which do not have obscene meanings from television and radio programs, newspapers or other media. From now on, people's language will be monitored constantly, with a new edition of the New Words Dictionary to be rolled out every year or two, she said, adding that there would 3,000 copies of the first edition. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Silent eco-tours

Posted by hasekamp on 8 June 2007 at 15:49 PM
Long-tailed boats which take people to watch fireflies in Samut Songkhram's Amphawa district have been told to cut their engine noise, as the din disturbs residents and the firefly habitat. The popularity of ecotourism activities, which center on firefly watching cruises along Klong Amphawa, has led to a sharp drop in the local firefly population. Residents have been cutting down lumpoo trees (Sonneratia caseolaris) near their canal-side houses to deliberately deplete the firefly population and discourage boats from visiting. They say the loud noise and the spotlights from firefly cruises disrupt their sleep. "We have told the boat operators to install noise filters to reduce the racket, but only 15 out of 150 operators have complied," said Apichart Anukularmphai, chairman of Samut Songkhram's natural resources and environment rehabilitation group. "Unbearable noise has prompted many villagers to cut down lumpoo trees, or even spray insecticide on the trees because they don't want their houses being turned into tourism sites," said Mr Apichart. Although most long-tailed boats have followed the regulation to limit noise to below 70 decibels, it is still too noisy for residents. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Plans for a green Bangkok

Posted by hasekamp on 6 June 2007 at 12:33 PM
Bangkok Governor Apirak Kosayodhin yesterday announced his target to reduce carbon emissions in Thailand's capital by 15 per cent in the next five years in response to growing concerns over global warming, which is the theme of this year's United Nations' World Environment Day. Scientists, while describing the goal as "ambitious", praised Apirak's initiative as it was the first time a Thai politician had come forward to set a target to reduce carbon emissions that are a major culprit in global warming. Apirak released a draft action plan for Bangkok that contained both soft and harsh measures such as planting trees, retro-fitting buildings with more energy efficient lighting and cooling systems, promoting carpools, renewable energy and mass transit systems and preventing vehicles without passengers to enter traffic congestion areas. (Source: The Nation)


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DNA tests for logs

Posted by hasekamp on 6 June 2007 at 12:30 PM
DNA testing help trace the true origin of "imported" logs, to ensure they were not cut illegally in Thailand and then presented as Burmese timber. The use of the technology marks the gearing up of the fight against deforestation, to prevent a repeat of 1997 Salween scandal when several thousand logs taken from Salween National Park in Tak were declared as coming from Burma. "I've told the relevant agencies to carefully trace the logs' origin," PM's adviser Watanachai Chaimuanwong said yesterday, as 25,000 tons of logs were queued to arrive from Burma through checkpoints in Mae Hong Son's Khun Yuam district. The logs belong to Phon Phana Co, which insists it has permission from the Burmese government to log timber from its forests. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Political ban partly lifted

Posted by hasekamp on 6 June 2007 at 12:26 PM
The cabinet agreed yesterday to lift a ban on political activities imposed by the coup-makers in a decision which would allow political groups including the dissolved Thai Rak Thai party to start making moves in preparation for the next general election. But the cabinet decided to keep intact another coup makers' order which provided a legal basis for the political ban on former Thai Rak Thai executives. Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont said that as soon as a new law is enacted, political parties will be able to resume activities.
The cabinet, however, decided to keep intact its rule which strips executives of political parties dissolved for electoral fraud of the rights to contest elections and to vote in elections for five consecutive years. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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21 Thai troops dead in South

Posted by hasekamp on 1 June 2007 at 13:18 PM
The army suffered a great loss after suspected insurgents bombed and killed 11 army rangers in Yala on Thursday night, Army spokesman Akara Tiprote said on Friday. The type of attack in Yala, Bannang Sata district was similar to that taken place in Narathiwat three weeks ago that took lives of seven soldiers. "Again this is a great loss of the army. The insurgents adopted similar tactics to that they used in Narathiwat. They bombed and killed the injured soldiers to make sure that no one survived," the spokesman said. Eleven soldiers were killed on Thursday night when a powerful roadside bomb exploded in Bannang Sata district shortly before 10pm. The remote-controlled bomb was set off as Army rangers were travelling past in a pickup truck along a back road linking Yala and Betong. They were returning to their camp from crowd-control duty at a protest by local residents. A ranger is still in critical condition. Akara said that army investigation into the attack showed that the insurgents killed the injured soldiers by either shooting at point blank range or strangling them to make sure that all were dead. (Source: The Nation)


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