BANGKOK • Two policemen in Thailand were executed after being abducted in the kingdom's violent southern borderlands, police said yesterday as bloodshed spikes again in a 15-year insurgency.
Clashes between ethnic Malay-Muslim rebels and forces from the Buddhist-majority Thai state that annexed the region a century ago have killed nearly 7,000 people since 2004, mostly civilians.
The death toll dropped to a record low last year as Thailand's junta tightened its security web, with militant attacks on civilians becoming less frequent.
But tit-for-tat violence has spiralled in recent weeks, leaving imams and Buddhist monks dead and hitting security forces protecting schools.
On Tuesday, about eight suspected militants stormed a tea shop in Narathiwat province near Malaysia's border, said Lieutenant Sarayuth Khotchawong. "The kidnappers abducted two policemen, took their guns and forced them to get into a pick-up truck."
The men's bodies were found later, a few hundred metres away. One of the victims was Buddhist while the other was Muslim, he said.
The killings occurred several hours after a bomb exploded in neighbouring Yala province, killing a Thai ranger on patrol.
The authorities said the latest attacks were likely in retaliation for raids by security forces in nearby mountains to pursue those responsible for recent assaults on soft targets.
In January, black-clad assailants shot dead two monks.
Militants also killed four civil defence volunteers in a drive-by shooting outside a school.
Security forces injured a boy as they gunned down rebels in counter-operations.
Claims of responsibility are rare in a conflict where the militants melt into remote communities or cross the porous border into Malaysia.
Peace talks have gone nowhere, with the Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN), who command the majority of rebel foot soldiers, refusing to join discussions with the Thai side.
Thailand remains unwilling to cede ground in public on demands for greater autonomy or allow international observers to mediate talks.
In a rare public statement on Jan 4, the BRN vowed to "keep fighting".