McCully denies NZ link to Thai Army

MICHAEL FIELD
Last updated 05:00 18/11/2012

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Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully has denied New Zealand is providing technology to the Royal Thai Army (RTA) in its battle against an increasingly savage Muslim insurgency in southern Thailand.

The claim that New Zealand is involved in the insurgency, which has seen more than 5000 people killed and 11,000 severely wounded since 2001, appears in the continuing stream of United States diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks.

In one dated February last year, the then-commander of the US Pacific Command, Admiral Robert Willard, visits Bangkok and is briefed on the country by a number of people, including the then-Thai Government spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn.

In his cable account of the briefing, Willard says: "Panitan also said that both Australia and New Zealand were providing Thailand with modern technology for use in counter-insurgency efforts in southern Thailand. This was valuable, as the RTA could not afford the technology needed for these efforts."

McCully said New Zealand had no aid programme funding the RTA and the ministry was "not aware of any technology being provided by the New Zealand Government for counter-insurgency efforts in southern Thailand".

He said he would make no other comment on the detail of leaked material.

Although the insurgency has made southern Thailand the deadliest war zone in East Asia, it goes on little noticed outside the country. The conflict is played out in the southern provinces of Narathiwat, Yala and Pattani with beheadings, mutilations of Buddhist monks, murders of teachers and roadside bombings.

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