Rebels in Thailand’s restive Deep South mounted a series of attacks that killed a defense volunteer and injured 11 other people on Sunday and Monday, authorities said.
The attacks brought to 20 the number of people killed in spurts of related violence across the region since Feb. 10, when Thai security forces raided a rebel hideout in Pattani province.
The latest attacks occurred around the 56th anniversary of the founding of Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN) – which remains the largest and most powerful of the armed separatist groups in Thailand’s predominantly Muslim far southern region. The anniversary fell on Sunday.
The incidents also took place amid ongoing efforts by the Thai junta to persuade rebel groups and factions to resume formal peace talks for the first time since December 2013, when a civilian-led government was in office.
Rebel groups wanted to show their ability to launch attacks on BRN’s anniversary, Gen. Chakthip Chaijinda, the national police chief, told reporters Monday.
Members of other rebel groups joined BRN members in mounting attacks in six or seven locations in Yala and Narathiwat provinces, he said.
Rebels infiltrate hospital
The attacks began when four rebels started shooting at a military base in Cho-i-rong district, Narathiwat province, on Sunday. No one was injured, police said.
Later, rebels launched a larger attack at an Army Ranger base camp 4816, officials said. After authorities responded, the rebel group entered a nearby hospital and fired on the soldiers before eventually fleeing into the woods. Authorities reported that seven soldiers were injured.
Security forces did not open fire on the hospital over concerns for staff members who were in the building. The army and National Human Rights Commission condemned the rebels’ infiltration of the hospital as inhumane.
Orawan Namkhan, a nurse at Cho-i-rong hospital who was six months pregnant, confirmed that rebels entered the hospital and shot at the military base next-door.
“There were about 10 rebels who ran into the hospital to hide, and they tied my hands in the back. Luckily I was quiet, so I was safe. If I shouted, I would have been killed,” she told reporters.
The fatality occurred Monday, when the defense volunteer was shot dead along the road in Narathiwat’s Muang district. Four others, including a civilian, were injured in separate attacks in the Deep South.
Following the attacks, Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha ordered the army to increase security in the southern provinces, Reuters reported.
“The government can’t accept actions that are above the law,” junta spokesman Maj. Gen. Sansern Kaewkumnerd told reporters, according to Reuters.
New wave of violence
The attacks on Sunday and Monday marked the third round of deadly violence this month.
On March 3, four people, including two civilians, were killed in separate shootings over a 24-hour period.
Five days later, three officials were shot dead in separate attacks. A woman who was shot and severely injured while traveling by road to a rubber plantation in Pattani’s Tung Yang Dang district.
The bloodshed within the past five weeks has taken place against the backdrop of back-channel efforts by the Thai junta to try and get the BRN and other rebel groups to re-open formal peace talks and settle the region’s long-running conflict. More than 6,000 have died in it since 2004.
Last year, the junta began holding meetings with MARA Patani, an umbrella group representing various rebel groups and faction, including the BRN, that were aimed at pointing both sides back on a track to peace talks.
But last month, Lt. Gen. Nakrob Boonbuathong, a member of Thailand’s negotiating team told reporters that the pre-peace talk process was still stuck in the mutual “trust-building” phase.
The government now set a June 2016 deadline for the signing of a peace deal, but Nakrob did not say what would happen if both sides failed to strike a deal by then.