Muslim militants gun down teacher in front of students

BANGKOK – Four suspected Muslim militants on Monday gunned down a teacher in front of a classroom filled with his terrified students, radio reports said.

Prasarn Makchu, 48, died with a chalk still in his hand, said Thai Radio 98.

The assailants entered the Ban Muaraeng school in Narathiwat province, 780 kilometres south of Bangkok, at 11:00 a.m. and shot Prasarn in the head and chest with their pistols before fleeing.

Thai Education Minister Chaturon Chaisang, who was on an inspection tour of the troubled deep South Monday, went to the Ban Muaraeng school to investigate the shooting.

Public school teachers are being increasingly targetted by separatists in Thailandís three southernmost provinces as part of their terrorist tactics to drive a wedge between the majority Muslim population and the Bangkok-based public administration.

In May, Muslim villagers kidnapped and beat up two female teachers in Narathiwat, leaving one in a coma from which she has yet to awake.

Local education authorities decided to close 100 of the 199 schools in the province following the incident, although most have now been reopened. Narathiwat is part of Thailandís majority Muslim ďdeep South,Ē comprising the countryís three southernmost provinces that border Malaysia and once made up the independent Islamic sultanate of Pattani.

More than 1,300 people have died in clashes, ambushes, shootings, explosions and beheadings in the deep South since January 2004, when the areaís long-simmering separatist struggle started to escalate.

The area was first conquered by Bangkok in 1786 but only came under direct rule of the Thai bureaucracy in 1902.

Pattaniís long-lasting separatist struggle has been fuelled by the local populationís sense of religious and cultural alienation from the predominantly Buddhist Thai state.

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DPA, via, Germany
July 24, 2006

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