|The head of the world's largest body of Islamic nations urged Thailand on Monday to stick to its soft approach to resolving a bloody insurgency in the Muslim-majority far south.|
"We are encouraged by the new government's policy toward the Muslim population," Ekmeleddin Insanoglu, secretary general of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC), told reporters.
"We support the measures taken by the government and we hope to cooperate for a better future," he said after talks with Foreign Minister Nitya Pibulsonggram on unrest in which more than 2,100 people have been killed since January 2004.
Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont shed the hardline policies of his predecessor, Thaksin Shinawatra, who had accused the OIC in 2005 of violating Thai sovereignty by criticising his government's response to the unrest.
After taking office following the bloodless coup that ousted Thaksin in September, Surayud apologised for abuses by security forces in the mainly Malay-speaking region. He also pushed for dialogue and greater recognition of Malay culture and language.
But the gun and bomb attacks on both Muslims and Buddhists have intensified despite the presence of 30,000 soldiers and paramilitary rangers in the region bordering Malaysia.
In the latest attack, suspected Muslim militants beheaded a 30-year-old Buddhist man, shot dead his 14-year-old nephew and set both bodies on fire in a Muslim village in Pattani, one of three provinces hit by violence.
But the Thai government has a plan.
|The army has said it needs another 10,000 troops in the region, an independent sultanate until annexed by largely Buddhist Thailand a century ago, but the government said it would prefer to give villagers military training and guns.|