Six army rangers killed in ambush in south Thailand

The rangers' coffins draped with the Thai national flag at their funeral yesterday.
The rangers' coffins draped with the Thai national flag at their funeral yesterday.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

BANGKOK • Six Thai army rangers have been killed in an ambush after a bomb hit their truck in Thailand's insurgency-plagued south, police said, the latest suspected rebel attack to undermine stagnant peace talks.

The Muslim-majority border region has seethed with violence for over a decade as ethnic Malay insurgents battle the Buddhist-majority state for more autonomy. Near- daily shooting and bomb attacks have claimed more than 6,800 lives since 2004, with both sides accused of rights abuses and atrocities.

In the latest violence on Thursday, the army patrol team was gunned down in Narathiwat province after their pick-up truck was struck by a roadside explosive.

"After the vehicle tipped over, four (rangers) were shot dead at the scene," said provincial police commander Manas Suksamas. Two other rangers died in hospital.

The attack came a day before the anniversary of a bloody 2004 army raid on a mosque in neighbouring Pattani province that left 32 insurgents dead and stoked the rebellion in the region. Militants often time their attacks around anniversaries and other symbolic events.

Earlier this month, the most active insurgent group rejected peace talks organised by the ruling junta in a rare press statement.

The shadowy Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN) is believed to be behind most of the violence in the region, although it never claims attacks and shuns publicity.

Experts have said the faction is not loyal to a group of rebel negotiators who have been meeting the Thai junta, which seized power in 2014. But the Thai government has consistently refused to talk to BRN.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 29, 2017, with the headline 'Six army rangers killed in ambush in south Thailand'. Print Edition | Subscribe