Thai PM 'to Reach Out to Muslims'

October 18, 2006

Source: BBC News

Thailand's new Premier Surayud Chulanont has said he will use peaceful means to try to resolve the Islamic insurgency in the country's south.

Speaking after a meeting in Malaysia, Gen Surayud said he wanted to reach out to Muslims in the troubled region.

His comments signal a different approach to the hardline stance taken by his predecessor Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in a coup last month.

The southern violence has claimed more than 1,500 lives since January 2004.

Officials blame Muslim rebels for much of the unrest, although criminal gangs are also thought to be behind some of the attacks.

Thailand's new rulers have already said they want to hold talks with the insurgents - another policy change from that of Mr Thaksin, whose government repeatedly refused to negotiate.