PATTANI – Four people were killed and several others wounded on Thursday (Sep 11) when suspected rebels in Thailand’s insurgency-ravaged south raided a government office, police told AFP. The attack in Khok Pho district of Pattani province comes as the Thai junta steps up efforts to reboot peace talks that stalled last year amid political turmoil in Bangkok.
A brutal decade-long rebellion has rocked Thailand’s deep south, bordering Malaysia, leaving more than 6,100 dead and thousands more wounded. Most of the victims have been civilians.
Several rebels traveling in a pick-up truck and on motorcycles arrived at the local government office on Thursday afternoon, according to local police. “People were working… the suspects came in and opened fire,” police officer Phonganan Suwanno told AFP, adding they left two time bombs in bags outside, which destroyed the front of the one-storey building.
“The dead were all men, two of them are senior government officials,” he said. The local police commander confirmed the toll, adding three officials and one civilian were killed in the attack.
The Muslim-majority region was colonized by Thailand more than a century ago and insurgencies have flared several times since. The latest round of conflict has lasted 10 years and seen rebels step up their brutality, targeting security forces and civilians perceived to be collaborating with the Thai state – including Buddhist and Muslim school teachers and local government officials.
Rights groups accuse Thai authorities of widespread human rights abuses – including extra-judicial killings – in the southern region and of sweeping aside the distinct local culture through forced assimilation projects.
A 14-year old boy was shot dead mistakenly on August 20 in Narathiwat province as security forces clashed with suspected rebels. Police said a paramilitary soldier has been charged with putting a pistol in the dead teen’s hand in an attempt to cover up the killing.
Rebels demanded a level of autonomy from the Thai state at the last round of peace talks. But discussions collapsed last year as the then civilian government in Bangkok was engulfed by a political crisis.
Thailand’s new junta leaders say they want to kick-start a new round of talks and have sent top security officials to Kuala Lumpur who have acted as facilitators for discussions. Key rebel leaders are believed to be holed up in Malaysia.
A source close to the process told AFP that the main rebel groups are yet to agree to the negotiations, dismayed by Thailand’s refusal to even answer their demands at the last round.