Unidentified gunmen shot dead a village chief in Pattani province on Thursday, bringing to three the death toll this week in Thailand’s Deep South, the first killings in the insurgency-hit region after a lull since Aug. 22, officials said.
The shooting took place the same day that an unknown number of assailants struck a school building with gunfire in neighboring Yala province, forcing authorities to order a lockdown, authorities said.
Samsuding Saro-ang, 48, the headman of Bahoyiruering village in Pattani’s Sai Buri district, was riding a motorcycle before dawn when he was gunned down, a police investigator told reporters.
“[The victim] was shot at multiple times with handguns and he was pronounced dead on arrival at Yupparat Hospital in Sai Buri,” police Lt. Kittikhun Pongpetch said.
Investigators were still trying to determine the attackers’ motive, but didn’t rule out the possible involvement of separatist insurgents, he said.
On Monday, suspected rebels fatally wounded two village defense volunteers when they opened fire at a motorcycle convoy after detonating a roadside bomb in Koke Pho, another district in Pattani, Maj. Piyawat Chalermsri, the commander of Pattani police bureau, told reporters.
The next day, an unidentified gunman shot and wounded a construction worker who was riding a motorcycle in Pattani’s Maung district, police said.
The victim remains under intensive care at a local hospital, officials said. His wife, who was on the same motorcycle, was unharmed, according to investigators. It was not immediately clear if the attack was insurgency-related.
On Thursday morning, gunmen opened fire and struck a building at the Ban Seyoh School in Yaha, a district in Yala province, prompting authorities to order a lockdown.
“The perpetrators fired four or five rounds into the school, but the bullets hit a building and caused no casualties,” Capt. Isawat Yingkong, a Yaha police station investigator, told reporters. He did not provide details, but said a defense team returned fire “so the gunmen retreated.”
Srisompob Jitpiromsri, director of Deep South Watch, a think-tank, said members of the region’s largest insurgent group, the National Revolutionary Front (BRN), could have resumed their attacks after nearly a month of inactivity due to unfavorable weather conditions. He did not provide evidence to support his allegations.
“BRN members still want themselves to be heard,” he said. “The rains caused them to pause bombing [activities] in the past weeks.”
Despite the lull in insurgency-related attacks, casualty figures in Thailand’s predominantly Muslim and Malay-speaking southern border region during the first three quarters this year had already matched 2018’s statistics, Srisompob said.
According to unofficial figures compiled by BenarNews from police and military records, at least 77 people have been killed and 128 wounded to date this year, while last year saw 80 deaths and 155 injuries.
The Thai Deep South borders Malaysia and encompasses Pattani, Narathiwat and Yala provinces as well as four districts in neighboring Songkhla. Almost 7,000 people have been killed in violence in the majority-Muslim region since a separatist insurgency reignited in 2004.
Peace talks brokered by neighboring Malaysia have yet to resume formally since Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha, the former junta leader and ex-army chief, was elected to the office by lawmakers in June after a general election in March.
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