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Watch soccer, shed violence: Thai minister

August 16, 2005 10:55 IST

Getting restless Muslim youths to watch more English Premier League soccer is the latest Thai government initiative to quell an Islamic insurgency in the country's south, a key government minister said Tuesday.

Under the plan, Thailand's interior ministry will bear the cost of installing 500 television sets at community tea and coffee shops where cable operators will televise every English Premier League match with commentary and narration in Yawi, the dialect of Muslims living in the restive area.

The ministry "will tame these young people, getting them to think of sports and watch the league on television rather than going out and killing people," Interior Minister Kongsak Wanthana said on Tuesday.

"We are confident the league games will draw attention of the young to the area of sports and they'll have no time to think of violence and causing trouble," said Kongsak, who is charged with national security.

More than 900 people have died in the predominantly Muslim provinces of the south, with the government blaming the attacks on separatists who recruit young Muslims "brainwashed" by religious teachers.

The government is trying various approaches to restores peace to the region after being blasted by domestic and international criticism for its heavy-handed handling of the insurgency.

One unusual-- and ultimately unsuccessful-- initiative involved the airdrop of millions of paper cranes over the troubled provinces last December as a symbol of peace. Within hours of the drop, there was renewed violence in the region.

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