Buddhist 'refugees' demand new home

TNA, Dec 25, 2006

Yala, Thailand -- Thai Buddhist villagers taking temporary refuge at a Buddhist temple in this troubled southern province for almost two months on Sunday demanded the government to assist them within 15 days, or they will rally in front of the Government House in Bangkok.

The abbot of Nirotesangkharam temple and 161 villagers from 56 families taking refuge here since November 6 held a press conference demanding the government to find land outside the three Muslim-dominant southern provinces Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat so that they could build new homes.

Citing the lack of security as the major reason they cannot return to their homes, the villagers said if the government is unable to find the land then they would ask to borrow money for their daily expenses.

They said they would give the government 15 days to answer, barring which they would march to Bangkok and rally at Government House.

The villagers -- all from two Yala districts -- moved to the temple in the Yala provincial seat November 6. Although most the villagers want to return home, they believe their homes are unsafe from insurgent attacks.

Thongchai Iamhirun, a villager from Than To district, said the government must speak the truth about the unrest in the region. The government claimed that the situation had improved, he said, but in fact bloodshed occurs every day.

Meanwhile, the abbot said the Thai government had in the past offered assistance to Indochinese refugees but did nothing to help the 100 Thais taking shelter at the temple.

During the press conference, the villagers presented a list of the names of their number staying at the temple affirming that they are still living there.