NARATHIWAT – Two monks, including an abbot, have been killed and two others injured after a group of 10 Muslim insurgents sprayed bullets into their cubicles at a Buddhist temple in Sungai Padi district.
A joint team of police, soldiers and the district chief arrived at the scene at Wat Rattananuparb in Ban Poh Deng after being alerted at around 8.30pm on Friday.
Phra Kru Prachote Rattananurak, the district chief monk and abbot of the temple, was found dead along with one other monk. Two other monks were also injured and taken to Sungai Padi Hospital.
Nearby residents told investigators they saw a group of men in black dressed like soldiers riding motorcycles in the direction of the temple. Upon entering the gate, they shot several rounds into the cubicles and escaped.
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha and religious leaders have condemned the attack in the mainly Muslim province, the scene of a long-running insurgency against Thai rule.
“The prime minister denounced such a brazen attack and instructed officials to investigate and find the assailants to punish them,” said government spokesman Buddhipongse Punnakanta.
Thai Muslim leaders also spoke out against the shooting of monks.
“We urge perpetrators of violence in the southern border provinces from all sides to stop killing innocent people and religious leaders,” the Sheikhul Islam Office, which represents Thailand’s Muslim minority, said in a statement.
Police said the assailants were still at large.
Meanwhile, Fourth Army Region commander Lieutenant General Pornsak Poonsawat visited two injured monks at hospital following a shooting attack at a temple there yesterday.
He also met villagers to boost their morale after two monks including the abbot were killed and two others injured in the insurgent attack at the Rattananuparb temple in Sungai Padi district.
The fourth army chief presided over a meeting with high-ranking officials on the issue today.
Lt. Gen. Pornsak said the government would not use unlawful measures against suspected insurgents because it would worsen the situation.
The Friday’s violence erupted after more than 10 gunmen travelled by motorcycles stormed into the temple. They fired at the monks and fled the scene. The wounded monks were later sent to a nearby hospital for treatment.
A bathing ceremony for the dead monks will be held this afternoon.