BANGKOK (AFP) - Four Thai army rangers were killed Friday (Sept 22) when a roadside bomb tore through their truck as they were securing a road for teachers, an army official said, the latest carnage in an insurgency roiling the kingdom's far south.
The Muslim-majority region that borders Malaysia has seethed with violence for over a decade as ethnic Malay insurgents battle the Buddhist-majority state for more autonomy.
More than 6,800 people have died - the majority civilians - in a conflict marked by weekly bombings and shooting attacks.
The rebels mostly target security officers who blanket the three southernmost border provinces.
But teachers, local officials and other perceived collaborators with the state are also frequently swept up in the violence.
Friday's blast in Pattani province left four rangers dead and six wounded, including one civilian, said deputy army spokesman for the south, Colonel Yuthanam Petchmoang.
The group was on a routine early morning patrol to clear a road used by teachers in Sai Buri district when the bomb erupted, tearing their silver pick-up truck in two and carving a crater into the rubble-strewn road.
The explosive was tucked into a drainage tunnel beneath the road and detonated after four of the rangers stepped out of their truck to inspect the site, the southern Internal Security Operation Command (ISOC) said in statement.
"The incident was aimed to incite unrest and violence in the region without regard for the safety and livelihood of residents," it added.
The attack comes as the Thai junta pursues talks with an umbrella group claiming to represent the rebels.
So far the meetings have borne little fruit, with experts saying the rebel negotiators lack control over fighters on the ground.
The shadowy Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN) faction is believed to be behind most of the violence in the region, although it never claims attacks and shuns publicity.