Article 105

Panlop to face trial for the storming of Krue Se mosque



Gen Panlop Pinmanee, the Internal Security Operations Command deputy director, a colonel and a lieutenant colonel will be tried at Pattani provincial court on Oct 14 for their decision to crack down on militants at the Krue Se mosque in the southern province in April.

Gen Panlop, also Southern Border Provinces Peace Building Command deputy commander, ordered the assault on militants who had raided a local police unit before holing up at the mosque.

The police booth attack left a 63-year-old militant and an army commando dead. One policeman was also injured.

The storming of the mosque resulted in the deaths of 31 militants.

Also to be tried are Col Manas Khongpaen, commander of a Pattani military force and Lt-Col Thanapat Nakchaiya, who led the group of 40 soldiers in the mosque siege.

Although the area has been under martial law since Jan 6 this year, the three officers must be tried at Pattani court starting Oct 14.

``We must proceed with this prosecution and spend time on interrogation to provide the court with information. But we have the martial law [situation] to support us and the court will take this into account,'' said Col Manas.

Gen Panlop said that as the most senior officer present, he took full responsibility for ordering the use of force. But he insisted his actions were justified.

He said the security forces had tried to negotiate with the militants for up to nine hours. If they had hesitated any longer, villagers surrounding the mosque might have got in the way and could have been hurt. It would also have been harder to operate if it had got darker, he added.

``The militants not only had knives but also guns and heavy weapons. They were prepared. If they had used knives, would we have had to use knives too?

They had killed unarmed villagers. Why don't you think about this? I have done my job only to be vilified and I have to go to court as well. Please sympathise with us soldiers,'' Gen Panlop said.

The crackdown at the Krue Se mosque also resulted in the death of a sergeant and 10 soldiers were injured.

After the operation ended on April 28, Deputy Prime Minister Gen Chavalit Yongchaiyudh immediately ordered Gen Panlop out of the area as Gen Panlop had resisted his order to negotiate with the militants and feed them. The two men have been at odds ever since.

The government subsequently formed a committee to probe the military action. The panel found the security forces had over-reacted.

Meanwhile, an unidentified gunman killed Samahae Srilakoh, 58, a village leader in the Sungai Padee district of Narathiwat province yesterday.

He was fatally shot while driving to pray at a local mosque in the provincial capital, said police.

The gunman rode on the back of a motorcycle and shot Samahae in the head with a pistol at around 12:20pm.

In Yala last night a Muslim religious teacher was also killed by gunmen on a motorbike at around 8pm.

Usama Jorlor, 40, a religious instructor at the Thamvittaya Foundation school was shot three times near his home in Tambon Yupo, Muang district.