World, Asia - Pacific

4 killed as violence returns to Thai Muslim south

Increase in violence comes as Muslim holy month comes to an end -- a period which historically sees a rise in deaths

03.07.2016
4 killed as violence returns to Thai Muslim south File photo

By P.S. Waller

BANGKOK

A series of bombings and shootings have rocked Thailand's Muslim majority south over the last two days, killing two insurgents and two villagers and injuring four military officials.

The increase in violence comes as the Muslim holy month comes to an end, with separatists historically seeking to make immediate gains as Ramadan closes in a region plagued by insurgency for decades.

Police Col. Mastopa Manipkok of Bannang Sata police station in Yala province told Anadolu Agency that two villagers had died after their car was ambushed early Sunday.

“The assailants shot at them with M-16 automatic rifles and detonated a bomb which was hidden in a fire extinguisher attached to a pole near the road. Both villagers died on the spot,” he added.

Yala is one of three provinces -- Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat -- wracked by the insurgency.

On Saturday, two suspected insurgents were killed and two soldiers injured when the military raided a safehouse in nearby Narathiwat, according to the Bangkok Post.

The men refused to surrender when the military surrounded the house and tried to convince them, with the help of a local imam, to lay down their weapons.

They then shot at soldier from inside, reported the post.

"Several suspects managed to escape."

Earlier Saturday, two soldiers were wounded when a remote-controlled bomb exploded in Narathiwat's Ying-ngo district.

The southern insurgency is rooted in a century-old ethno-cultural conflict between Malay Muslims living in the southern region and the Thai central state where Buddhism is considered the de-facto national religion.

Armed insurgent groups were formed in the 1960s after the then-military dictatorship tried to interfere in Muslim schools, but the insurgency faded in the 1990s.

In 2004, a rejuvenated armed movement – composed of numerous local cells of fighters loosely grouped around an organization called the National Revolutionary Front or BRN – emerged.

Negotiations between an umbrella group representing various insurgent factions – including some from the BRN – and the military government – which seized power in a May 2014 coup – have been on-going since 2015, with Malaysia acting as a facilitator.

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