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Thai Government begins investigation into Mus -

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Thai Government begins investigation into Muslim deaths

Reporter: Tony Jones

TONY JONES: Joining us now from Bangkok is the Thai Government spokesman, Jakrapob Penkair.

Thanks for joining us.

JAKRAPOB PENKAIR, GOVERNMENT SPOKESMAN: Tony Jones, how are you?

TONY JONES: Very well thanks.

Could you explain for us how so many people were killed in this terrible incident?

JAKRAPOB PENKAIR: That would be up to the investigation that we are about to be conducting to add
the more complete answer to that, but the initial response of that is that this extremely tragic
story that occurred unexpectedly in Thailand is something that the Government and the people alike
feel very sad about.

Having said that, we have to pay back and apologise to the situation which is ongoing, by sticking
as deep as is possible to the truth and facts.

Let me explain initially how it happened.

The protesters gather shortly before nine o'clock in the morning that day, and then eventually the
number grew very fast and we learned later that additional number came with people from outside the
area meaning that there was some people who joined the gathering just to make the protests more
active and increasing in number.

And we learn later that this additional group of people carry arms with them and that how the
situation went out of control and after six hours the Government decided to use the most peaceful
mean to curb the situation by using water and then people were herded into a pick-up truck and
because of the fatigue and physical situation to deliver the bodies, the tragic situation occur,
that people died during this transport.

TONY JONES: Sorry, this is the information that we have - six people were shot when police opened
fire on the demonstration, then 78 people were suffocated when 1,300 people were crammed into
trucks, many of them on top of the bodies of other people who were already bound and who had
previously been savagely beaten.

Is that as you understand it, because we've certainly seen pictures which indicate how bad this
situation was?

JAKRAPOB PENKAIR: Actually, no, let's do the second part first.

The part that you say 'savagely beaten'.

That happened and that is being under the intense investigation of how the persons from the
military and the police alike were doing what they did.

That was wrong.

And there was not the Government intention to control that crowd, but to go back to the first part
of the question, people were brought into that truck in the spur of the moment, because the
officials at the time were so afraid that more people would come and join them.

They didn't know what was happening.

We are looking at this situation in retrospect, that's why it seems clear to us, and then there
would be more expert to say, "Well, you should have done that," or "You should not have done this,"
but in the situation nobody had time to think clear about how to prevent this tragedy from
happening, all we needed to do that day and that moment is to bring them away and take them away
from the place that the violence may even have been increased.

TONY JONES: Mr Penkair, it's reported that people were bound and piled on top of each other, body
upon body in the back of trucks.

That is how people's necks were broken, that is how they were suffocated.

Is this not a criminal action if it is proven to be the case?

JAKRAPOB PENKAIR: No, it is not, because the criminal action has to require the intention and the
motive of committing such crime.

The Government of Thailand now and then did not have any intention and ill meaning to the people
who belong to our country.

These are Thai people.

Regardless to the religion or the province that they stay, they are Thai people.

No government with sane mind would have planned to transport these people with the intention that
they would be killed or they would die eventually.

That certainly not the intention.

TONY JONES: If I can interrupt you -

JAKRAPOB PENKAIR: That has to be brought into the truck.

And then the truck has to be brought away from this situation.

That's how it happened.

TONY JONES: I don't think anyone is saying the Government itself ordered this, but certainly the
military and police officers on the ground who allowed these people to be piled on top of each
other must be looked at as if they've committed a criminal offence, is that not the case?

JAKRAPOB PENKAIR: That is the case.

That's why the investigation would concentrate on the conduct of the local authorities and the
persons there.

The Thai Government in Bangkok are asking the same question that you are asking now - that why it
happened and why the situation there in the mode of crisis management would trigger such tragedy
and that many death.

That saddens all of us here and to myself personally as well.

TONY JONES: Just finally, because we're nearly out of time, are you convinced that this situation
will not now get out of control?

JAKRAPOB PENKAIR: I am.

We do and we did many explanations right after the incident yesterday.

Islamic leaders were consulted, the provincial governors were brought in and planned a joint
strategy in communicating to people in a global level and Thailand alike.

We concentrate on explaining the situation and at the same time concentrate on not having this
incident to occur ever again.

We try our best to learn from the lesson just like the tragedy that occur in many countries and the
best way we have to do right now is to move on and make it clear that whatever the frustration
might be we would provide a dialogue so we can talk and get rid of the situation that can turn into
violence.

TONY JONES: Jakrapob Penkair, we thank you very much for taking the time to come and talk to us
tonight.

JAKRAPOB PENKAIR: You're welcome.

(c) 2006 ABC