Thai court sentences five suspected Muslim separatists to death in war-torn south

Rescue workers carry the body of shooting victim at the Kok Po district office to a hospital in Pattani province, south of Bangkok on Sept 11, 2014. A Thai court sentenced to death five suspected Muslim separatists convicted of killing four sold
Rescue workers carry the body of shooting victim at the Kok Po district office to a hospital in Pattani province, south of Bangkok on Sept 11, 2014. A Thai court sentenced to death five suspected Muslim separatists convicted of killing four soldiers, prompting the Human Rights Watch to accuse the government of applying "double standards" in the turbulent south. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

BANGKOK (Reuters) - A Thai court sentenced to death five suspected Muslim separatists convicted of killing four soldiers, prompting the Human Rights Watch to accuse the government of applying "double standards" in the turbulent south.

Thailand is predominantly Buddhist but parts of the south, in particular the three southernmost provinces of Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat, are majority Muslim.

A low-level insurgency in the region has claimed more than 6,000 lives since 2004 following the resurgence of a dormant Muslim separatist movement.

The Pattani Provincial Court sentenced the five men to death after finding them guilty of killing four soldiers who were on patrol and seriously wounding two others in a roadside shooting in Pattani in 2012.

Sunai Phasuk, a senior researcher on Thailand at the Human Rights Watch, said the sentence drew attention to double standards in the state's law enforcement. "Ten years on and there has been no successful prosecution of Thai security forces who may be guilty of rights violations," said Sunai. "Violence does not come from the separatists alone. The security forces have their own share of responsibility."