Thai forces kill three insurgents in restive south

Hospital staff remove the body of a suspected separatist from an ambulance, following an earlier operation in Thailand's southern province of Narathiwat on Jan 29, 2022. PHOTO: AFP

BANGKOK (AFP) - Thai security forces said on Thursday (Feb 3) they had killed three armed insurgents in a shootout in the country's restive deep south.

A rumbling conflict in the kingdom's southernmost provinces has killed more than 7,000 people as militants in the Muslim-majority region battle for greater autonomy from the Thai state.

The coronavirus pandemic brought a lull to clashes, but fighting has renewed in recent months.

The latest incident came when militants tried to break through security forces surrounding a house near a mosque in Chana district in Songkhla province, according to the military's Internal Security Operations Command (ISOC).

Officials said they initially tried to persuade the insurgents to surrender through their relatives and community leaders.

"At around 6am, the insurgents opened fire at authorities. Officials had to fire back to defend themselves," said Kiatisak Neewong, spokesman for the military's regional command.

A fourth insurgent who hid nearby surrendered late afternoon, and officials recovered firearms including an AK-47 and an M16 rifle.

Since the insurgency reignited in January 2004, more than 7,000 people have been killed and 13,500 others injured in Thailand's deep south, according to Deep South Watch, a local think-tank.

Delegations representing the Thai government and Barisan Revolusi Nasional rebels met in Kuala Lumpur in January for their first in-person peace talks in about two years, though no breakthrough was reported.

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