15 killed in insurgent attack in southern Thailand

VIDEO: REUTERS
Bodies being taken to a hospital in Yala province in southern Thailan yesterday. At least 15 people were killed in an ambush on a security checkpoint believed to have been carried out by suspected Muslim militants. It is one of the bloodiest days in
Bodies being taken to a hospital in Yala province in southern Thailand yesterday. At least 15 people were killed in an ambush on a security checkpoint believed to have been carried out by suspected Muslim militants. It is one of the bloodiest days in the 15-year insurgency. PHOTO: MAE KOR NEAW FOUNDATION

YALA • At least 15 people were gunned down in an ambush by suspected Muslim militants in Thailand's violence-wracked south, an army spokesman said yesterday, one of the bloodiest days in the 15-year insurgency.

Thailand's three southernmost provinces have been in the grip of a conflict that has killed more than 7,000 people, as Malay-Muslim militants fight for more autonomy from the Thai state.

Despite the high death toll, the unrest garners few international headlines. The area is heavily controlled by the police and military, with residents and rights groups accusing them of heavy-handed tactics.

Villagers armed by security forces monitor remote villages, though they are rarely targeted. This changed late on Tuesday when militants struck two checkpoints in Yala province manned by civilian volunteers, southern army spokesman Pramote Prom-in told Agence France-Presse.

In the largest death toll in years, "12 were killed at the scene, two more (died) at the hospital, and one died this morning", he said, adding that five others were hurt.

The attackers took away M-16 rifles and shotguns, he said. "These acts were by militants."

Nails were scattered on the roads to slow the forces, the army said in a separate statement. A bomb squad was dispatched yesterday morning to investigate and detonate an explosive device said to have been left by fleeing attackers.

Southern army commander Pornsak Poonsawasdi told reporters that the attackers were targeting "weak points... to gain the headlines and scare Thai people nationwide".

Rebels seeking autonomy for the culturally distinct region bordering Malaysia have been fighting the Buddhist-majority Thai state, which colonised the area over a century ago. The conflict is characterised by tit-for-tat attacks.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 07, 2019, with the headline '15 killed in insurgent attack in southern Thailand'. Print Edition | Subscribe