BANGKOK, Thailand – Thailand's Cabinet announced Tuesday it was extending a state of emergency in three southern provinces to cope with an escalating Muslim insurgency.
Under Thai law, the government can declare states of emergency for up to three months in designated areas. The state of emergency declared in the provinces of Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat — Buddhist Thailand (search)'s only Muslim-majority areas — was due to expire Thursday.
The state of emergency allows the government to impose curfews, ban public gatherings, limit travel, censor and ban publications, detain suspects without charge, confiscate property and tap telephones.
It also gives officials immunity from "civil, criminal and disciplinary penalties" while carrying out acts under its provisions, including the killing of suspects.
At least 1,113 people have been killed and 1,691 wounded since the insurgency flared in January 2004.
In announcing the extension Tuesday, Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra (search) said: "The government definitely has to extend the state of emergency. The situation requires us to do so."
Critics say the state of emergency has failed to contain the growing violence and instead has worsened the situation by allowing violations of constitutional rights.
"The state of emergency law is making people more scared of state authority because they feel the law grants authorities the power to kill them," said Sen. Thongbai Thongbao, a prominent human rights advocate. He said existing criminal laws are sufficient to cope with the violence.
The Foundation of Islamic Center of Thailand (search) issued a statement Tuesday condemning an attack Sunday by Muslim separatists on a Buddhist monastery in Pattani that killed an elderly monk and two temple boys. The attackers also set fire to the monks' living quarters.