Suspected separatists kill five in Thailand

October 21st, 2008 - 11:38 am ICT by IANS  

Pattani (Thailand), Oct 21 (DPA) Suspected Muslim militants killed five civilians and injured six in two attacks in Thailand’s troubled deep South, the police said Tuesday.Six men on motorcycles, believed to be separatist insurgents, opened fire with M-16 rifles on a house Monday night in the Thung Yang Daeng district of Pattani, 750 km south of Bangkok, slaying three Thai Muslims, according to the police.

On the same night in nearby Narathiwat, assailants attacked a pickup on the outskirts of the city, killing two Thai Muslim men and injuring six others travelling in the vehicle.

“Thai authorities keep saying that the violence is on the decline here, but actually, it’s just the same,” said Somporn Sangsomboon, a teacher in Pattani. “The authorities still can’t secure the area.”

Acts of political violence in Thailand’s majority-Muslim Narathiwat, Pattani and Yala provinces, which border Malaysia, have claimed more than 2,700 lives over the past four years.

The three provinces comprised the independent Islamic sultanate of Pattani more than 200 years ago before it fell under Bangkok’s rule. More than 80 percent of the three provinces’ 2 million people are Muslim, making the region an anomaly in predominantly Buddhist Thailand.

A separatist struggle has simmered in the area for decades but took a more violent turn in January 2004 when Muslim militants attacked an army depot and stole 300 weapons, prompting a crackdown that further inflamed the local population against the government.

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