School security guard gunned down in tense Thai south

BANGKOK (AFP) - A security volunteer was gunned down by suspected rebels while guarding a primary school in Thailand's insurgency-plagued south, police said Thursday (Sept 29).

Morning lessons were underway at the school in Narathiwat province when ten militants arrived on motorcycles and opened fire on a group of security officers outside.

"One was shot and killed instantly and two others were wounded," said Chanawut Khaudsai, a police officer based near the school.

The attack comes weeks after a bomb explosion killed a four-year-old girl and her father as they arrived at a different school in the province.

Ethnic Malay Muslim militants have targeted schools and teachers for years, perceiving them as collaborators with Thailand's Buddhist-majority state.

The rebels have launched hundreds of attacks on state-run schools, killing nearly 200 teachers, despite widespread revulsion at the assaults on soft civilian targets.

More than 6,600 people, mostly civilians, have been killed since the conflict flared up in 2004.

The victims of Thursday's attack were village defence volunteers, a network of civilians armed and trained by the state to assist the tens of thousands of soldiers spread across the kingdom's three violence-plagued provinces bordering Malaysia.

Security convoys routinely accompany teachers and children to and from schools in the region's most dangerous "red zones".

In a separate attack on a petrol station Thursday, a 37-year-old woman was shot and killed shortly before an explosive wounded six people, police said.

"Four attackers came on two motorcycles," an officer from Khok Pho station told AFP, adding that the woman, a Thai Buddhist, worked at the station.

The explosive was detonated as police arrived on the scene, local television reported, a so-called "double-tap" tactic frequently used by the rebels.

Since its 2014 power grab, Thailand's military government has failed to make progress in peace talks with the shadowy insurgent network, whose members rarely claim their attacks.

Experts believe a rebel faction was behind an unprecedented string of bombings in resort towns outside the conflict zone last month.

But Thai authorities have avoided linking the August attacks - which hit the country's vital tourism sector - to the insurgency.