Friday fears in Thailand's deep south, many local shops not opening
Security forces in Thailand's deep south have been sucked into a psychological battle with shadowy insurgents who have scared many locals into not opening shops on Friday, a holy day for Muslims.
Last Friday saw a few more shops open in markets than the previous week. But the improvement was only marginal with about 80-90 per cent of shops in Pattani's main market for example, remaining closed. The same day the town of Saiburi, scene of a major attack by militants on Sept 21 which helped trigger the panic, was almost completely shut down and resembled a ghost town.
Fear and panic, often driven just by rumours, have overtaken the deep south, where security forces have been battling Malay-Muslim militants in an often brutal low-level war that has left well over 5,000 dead since 2004.
In the wake of the Saiburi attack - which was on a Friday - even some government officials have not been coming to work on that day, locals said. Relations between Thai Buddhists and Malay Muslims, strained for years by the violence, are at a new low.
Leaflets reportedly appeared in early September warning local traders not to open on Fridays. Such is the fear of revenge attacks by militants that few opened. Local 7-11s were emptied of stocks the previous day. ''It was as if there was going to be a war'' Pattani-based Senator Anusart Suwanmongkol told The Straits Times. The Saiburi incident, whether linked to the militants' threat or not, served only to deepen the sense of fear.
Read the full story in Monday's The Straits Times