Monk killers get life

Bangkok Post, Feb 17, 2008

Pattani, Thailand -- The Pattani Provincial Court yesterday handed down life sentences to five insurgents who torched a temple and burned a monk and two temple boys to death in a murderous rampage that shocked the country in 2005.

The five, led by Arduenan Wate, were among 11 suspects detained by police following an attack at Wat Phromprasit in Panare district.

Officers found the charred bodies of the three victims. The attack sparked outrage across the country and threatened to further divide the Muslim and Buddhist communities in the southern border provinces.

The remaining defendants were acquitted for lack of evidence.

The five men escaped the death penalty as they had confessed to police. However, their lawyer Korde Kortae, of the Association of Muslim Lawyers, said he would appeal the verdict.

The attack at Wat Phromprasit shook the once peaceful Ban Ko village where Buddhists and Muslims used to live together in harmony. Some Buddhist villagers said they wanted to leave fearing for their lives. They could not tolerate the acts of the assailants who damaged Buddha images at the temple. Muslims also spoke out against the violence.

In Narathiwat yesterday, a bomb aimed at a group of military officers sent to clear nails and spikes off a village road in Cho Airong district failed to explode, police said.

The bomb was hidden near an electricity pole along the road where the nails and spikes were scattered.

The device was wired to be set off by mobile phone but failed to detonate, officials said.

In Rueso district, police arrested Hamadsulyadai Bayo, 25, who allegedly killed a villager in the district early last month.

Police said they had evidence linking him to the murder even though Mr Hamadsulyadai strongly denied the allegation.

In Pattani's Yarang district, four men ambushed a pick-up truck carrying security officials. The attack damaged the vehicle but no one was injured, police said.