Thai government drops origami cranes as message of peace

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Sunday, December 5, 2004

BANGKOK – Millions of origami cranes have been dropped on Thailand's three southern provinces following violence between the government and ethnic minority Muslim populations. The move has been called a "goodwill gesture" towards Muslims.

Up to 120 million such paper sculptures were dropped on Thailand's three southern-most provinces, Narathiwat, Pattani and Yala. Tensions in this area have increased recently, peaking with the recent death of 85 demonstrators arrested during a protest. The government blamed their deaths on physical weakness due to fasting in the month of Ramadan as the cause, as most if not all the deaths occurred during transport of up to 500 arrested protestors. Critics of the Thai government have called for the resignation of Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, blaming the "over-eagerness" of Thai security forces as the cause of the deaths.

The dispersal was timed to coincide with the birthday of Thailand's King Bhumibol Adulyadej, and has generated much interest from the rest of the country's predominantly Buddhist population. The cranes were built by citizens throughout Thailand and had peace messages written on them. The southern, Muslim provinces are often considered neglected by a north that is larger and of the majority ethnic group. Some have welcomed the goodwill gesture, but critics in both the north and south have said that the resources would have been better spent solving the problems in the south. Some Islamic leaders in the south have also expressed concerns that the gesture may not be properly understood by Muslims, as the crane carries no cultural significance with them.

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