Southern Thailand: Armed separatists kill 15 people

At least 15 people have been killed in an attack on a security checkpoint in southern Thailand, including a police officer and many village defence volunteers, according to an army spokesman.

Suspected insurgents killed at least 15 volunteer village defense officers and wounded four others in Thailand’s Muslim-majority south, police said Wednesday.

The late-night attack targeted a security checkpoint in southern Yala province. An unknown number of assailants then used explosives and scattered nails on roads to slow down a response from security forces.

Officials said the attack was one of the deadliest in years. Thousands have died in decades of conflict between Thai authorities and Malay-Muslim separatists in the south. The incident late on Tuesday was the worst single attack in years in a region where a separatist campaign has killed thousands. 

Colonel Pramote Prom-in, spokesman for the army, said on Wednesday that “12 were killed at the scene, two more died at the hospital and one died this morning”. Five others were wounded, he told AFP news agency, adding that the attackers took M-16 rifles and shotguns from the checkpoint. 

Thailand’s three most southern provinces of Pattani, Narathiwat and Yala have faced a Malay-Muslim separatist insurgency since 2004 that has claimed nearly 7,000 lives.   Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat were part of an independent Malay-Muslim sultanate before predominately Buddhist Thailand annexed them in 1909.

The population of the provinces, which belonged to an independent Malay Muslim sultanate before Thailand annexed them in 1909, is 80 percent Muslim, while the rest of the country is overwhelmingly Buddhist. 

The region is under martial law, heavily policed by the military and sometimes staffed with trained civilian volunteers, with residents and rights groups accusing them of heavy-handed tactics.

Some rebel groups in the south have said they are fighting to establish an independent state. Police, teachers and other government representatives are often targets of the violence.

“Since 2004, these attacks have intensified. They’ve become much more coordinated and larger in nature,”  said Al Jazeera’s Wayne Hay, reporting from Bangkok.

Tensions also spiked rose in the region in the south over allegations that 32-year-old Abdullah Esormusor, a Muslim man, was beaten so badly during military interrogation that he fell into a coma. He later died of his wounds.

cw/se (dpa, Reuters, AP, aljazeera) – November 06, 2019

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