Wire Service: AP
Saba Yoi, Thailand - Hundreds of Buddhists rallied in Thailand's restive south Monday in anger over a bloody Islamic insurgency amid fears it could erupt into a sectarian battle between religious communities, officials said.
Protesters demanded that civilians be allowed to carry guns to protect themselves, and urged authorities to resist pressure from Muslims to withdraw soldiers and police from Songkhla province's Saba Yoi district.
Army spokesman Col. Akara Thiprot said Monday's rally was the largest in three years, and estimated more than 1,000 Buddhists joined the protest.
Buddhist protesters fear that Muslim groups will ask security forces to leave the district following a rare attack on children at an Islamic boarding school two weeks ago that left three teenage students dead and seven others injured.
The attack on the Islamic school sparked a riot by Muslims who refused to let the authorities into the site to investigate. Buddhists later staged a counter-protest to demand that security forces maintain the rule of law.