More violence was reported Thursday in Thailand’s far south province of Narathiwat, an area where most residents are Muslim. Thailand is overwhelmingly Buddhist, and flare-ups between the two communities in southern Thailand have increased over the years.
On Thursday, Thai paramilitary rangers were escorting schoolchildren and teachers home after school when a small bomb planted near an electrical pole exploded, which turned out to be a prelude to an ambush. When a small bomb planted near an electrical pole exploded, which turned out to be a prelude to an ambush.
Suspected Muslim rebels then fired assault rifles at troops, who returned fire.
The rebels quickly retreated, leaving one Thai ranger seriously wounded by bullets and shrapnel.
The Bangkok Post reported that separatist militants also killed a man in a drive-by shooting in Yala district. The Bangkok Post reports that close to 6000 people have been killed in “separatist unrest” since 2004, with the dead almost equally divided between Muslims and Buddhists. Well over 10,000 people have been wounded during the same time frame.
The main hotbeds of violence have been in south Thailand’s Yala, Pattani, Narathiwat as well as Chana, Thepha, Saba Yoi and Na Thawi districts of Songkhla.
Thailand’s far south has seen insurgent activity for quite some time, but more recently teachers have come under attack, presumably because they are seen as soft targets. The Thai government has stepped up its military presence in the region, but both Muslim and Buddhist blame each other for the continuing cycle of violence.