Al-Jazeerah: Cross-Cultural Understanding
News, November 2019
15 Members of Thai Village Defense Killed at a Checkpoint in Southern Thailand
November 6, 2019
Gunmen kill 15 in southern Thailand's worst attack in years
BANGKOK, Nov 6 (Reuters) -
Suspected separatist insurgents stormed a security checkpoint in Thailand's Muslim-majority south and killed at least 15 people, including a police officer and many village defense volunteers, security officials said on Wednesday.
It was the worst single attack in years in a restive region where a long-running Muslim insurgency has killed thousands of people in a fight against central government rule in overwhelmingly Buddhist Thailand.
The attackers, in the province of Yala, also used explosives and scattered nails on roads to delay pursuers late on Tuesday night.
"This is likely the work of the insurgents," Colonel Pramote Prom-in, a military regional security spokesman, told Reuters. "This is one of the biggest attack in recent times."
There was no immediate claim of responsibility, as is common with such attacks in the region.
A decade-old separatist insurgency in predominantly Buddhist Thailand's largely ethnic Malay-Muslim provinces of Yala, Pattani, and Narathiwat has killed nearly 7,000 people since 2004, says Deep South Watch, a group that monitors the violence.
Many of the dead at the checkpoint were members of the Village Defence Volunteers, a community-watch type organization, who were believed to be giving information to the local police and military.
"Normally the insurgents don't hit these village volunteers because they are considered civilians, unless they crosses the line and become part of state apparatus," Don Pathan, an expert on Thailand's deep south, told Reuters.
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.
Some rebel groups in the south have said they are fighting to establish an independent state.
Authorities arrested several suspects from the region in August over a series of small bombs detonated in Bangkok, the capital, although they have not directly blamed any insurgent group.
The main insurgency group, the Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN), denied responsibility for the Bangkok bombings, which wounded four people.
In August, the group told Reuters it had held a secret preliminary meeting with the government, but any step towards a peace process appeared to wither after the deputy prime minister rejected a key demand for the release of prisoners. (Additional reporting by Panu Wongcha-um, and Panarat Thepgumpanat; Editing by Paul Tait, Clarence Fernandez and Alex Richardson)
Suspected rebels kill 15 at southern Thailand security posts
by: SUMETH PANPETCH, Associated Press
WBL, November 5, 2019
Police secure the road leading to a shooting scene in Yala province, Thailand, Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2019. Gunmen fired at security personnel at checkpoints in Thailandís insurgency-wracked south, killing 15 volunteer officers and wounding five others, police said Wednesday. (AP Photo/Sumeth Panpetch)
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YALA, Thailand (AP) ó Gunmen in insurgency-wracked southern Thailand killed 15 village defense volunteers and wounded five security personnel in what is believed to be the deadliest attack on government forces since the separatist rebellion began 15 years ago.
Blood-stained clothing found at the scene suggested that some of the attackers on two checkpoints in Yala province late Tuesday night also may have been wounded in exchanges of gunfire, said army spokesman Col. Kiattisak Neewong. He said four of the slain officers were women and one was a doctor.
In what appeared to be coordinated actions, nails were scattered on a highway to disable vehicles entering Yala, a small explosive device was found placed near an electrical pole to knock out power, and several burning tires were left at a school, said Col. Thaweesak Thongsongsi, a Yala police superintendent.
Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha said Wednesday the attack may show the insurgents are switching their focus from attacking soldiers and police to the volunteers, who are lightly armed soft targets. He said plans would have to be drawn up to better protect them.
Thailandís volunteer forces in the south are raised from villages and receive weapons training from the army but no salary. They are usually issued shotguns but often carry personal handguns, and only guard their own villages rather than seek to confront the insurgents.
More than 7,000 people have been killed since the insurgency erupted in 2004 in Thailandís three southernmost provinces of Pattani, Narathiwat and Yala, the only ones with Muslim majorities in the Buddhist-dominant country. Muslim residents have long charged that they are treated like second-class citizens, and separatist movements have been periodically active for decades. Heavy-handed crackdowns have fueled the discontent.
Police, teachers and other government representatives have often been targeted, along with Muslim residents seen as siding with the government. Buddhist monks have also been attacked. The fragmented insurgent groups have focused on vague separatist demands and have not been linked to jihadi movements.
The Thai government has been holding on-again, off-again talks with insurgents brokered by neighboring Malaysia, but factionalism among the network of rebel groups along with a disinclination by Thailand to offer any substantial concessions have stymied progress toward peace. Prayuth suggested the attacks could be meant to influence the peace talks.
Most insurgents appear to be linked to the Barisan Revolusi Nasional ó BRN ó the most influential of the separatist groups, though local members operate with some autonomy. Generally, they stage hit-and-run attacks, such as drive-by shootings and ambushes with roadside bombs. They are also known for occasional coordinated attacks when seeking to make a political point with a show of strength.
Don Pathan, a security analyst closely watching the conflict, said the militants donít usually attack the Village Defense Volunteers, but if those units start taking an active role in chasing the insurgents, the situation could change.
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