Thai Red Cross responds to clashes in south

Published: 29 April 2004 0:00 CET

Rosemarie North in Bangkok

The Thai Red Cross is currently monitoring humanitarian needs following violent clashes in southern Thailand that have claimed 200 lives since January and drained reserves of blood.

According to reports, more than 100 people died in the provinces of Yala, Pattani and Songkhla, near the border with Malaysia, as the unrest escalated overnight between April 27 and 28. In the latest clashes, machete-wielding men on motorcycles are reported to have attacked targets including police and civil servants in pre-dawn raids.

The upsurge in violence has sharply depleted Red Cross blood supplies, which are struggling to keep up with demand. Blood supplies are also down after the Buddhist New Year period in April, when more than 600 people were killed and 35,000 injured in road crashes. There tend to be fewer donors during long holidays like Songkran, while demand peaks, said Thai Red Cross national blood centre director Dr Ratchanee Ocharoen.

In the south, blood demand is currently exceeding the daily supply of 200 to 400 units. The region’s governor has pledged to ask Muslim leaders to encourage blood donations by their congregations. The Red Cross plans a donation campaign at government offices and schools.

Lt Gen Amnat Barlee, director of Relief and Community Health at the Thai Red Cross, said Red Cross headquarters was discussing the situation with its provincial branches, local authorities and government agencies, and was ready to convert a health station into a disaster operations centre if necessary.

In January, the Thai Red Cross donated school uniforms and education kits containing pencils and other equipment to children in the south, where 21 schools were set on fire in one night.

In February and April the Thai Red Cross distributed a total of 3,000 parcels of towels, toothbrushes, soap, food, blankets and clothes in the southern provinces of Yala and Narathiwat.

But Dr Amnat said the security situation meant the Red Cross had not yet been able to distribute any relief in Pattani province.