BANGKOK (AFP) - Two Thai policemen were executed after being abducted from a tea shop in the kingdom's violent southern borderlands, police said Wednesday (Feb 27), as bloodshed again spikes in a 15-year insurgency.
Clashes between ethnic Malay-Muslim rebels and the forces from the Buddhist-majority Thai state which 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 and militant attacks on civilians have become 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 around eight suspected militants stormed a tea shop in Narathiwat province, near Malaysia's border, Lieutenant Sarayuth Khotchawong told AFP.
"The kidnappers abducted the two policemen, took their guns and forced them to get into a pick-up truck," Sarayuth said.
The bodies were found later a few hundred metres away. One of the victims was Buddhist while the other was Muslim, he said.
The wife of the Muslim policeman wept inconsolably as she arrived Wednesday at the hospital where the bodies were taken.
The killings occurred several hours after a bomb exploded in neighbouring Yala province, killing a Thai ranger on patrol.
Authorities said the attacks were likely retaliation after authorities launched raids 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 January 4 the BRN vowed to "keep fighting".