This past weekend, a mother and her teenage daughter were shot and killed as they were returning home from a flea market in Bacho district in Narathiwat, one of the three southernmost provinces of Thailand hit with a 14-year-old separatist insurgency.
Riding up from behind, the gunman let off two rounds, sending the mother-daughter motorbike into a ditch. He walked up to them and fired two more rounds at point blank to each victim’s head before leaving the scene with the their motorbike, ring and gold bracelets. The two victims were Buddhists.
This particular sub-district, Tambon Palukasamo, also witnessed a murder a few weeks ago, on July 18, when a gunman hiding behind a bush riddled a pickup truck with rounds from an M16 automatic rifle. The driver was killed on the spot but the passenger took a bullet to his stomach and survived. The truck slid off the road and into a small pond. The two men were Muslims.
On the same day that the mother and daughter were murdered, Aug. 11, just 50 km (31 miles) north in Panare district of Pattani province, a paramilitary ranger was shot dead by a sniper who fired five rounds from about 100 meters away.
The victim was going about his daily chore – turning on and off the light switch at the hut outside his army base camp.
That same day, an army ordinance team was called to defuse a 5-kg bomb at a fair in Tung Yang Daeng district in Pattani province. Fliers floating around the village instructed people to stay away from the fair but offered no further explanation.
In these and in most cases, police make generic statements about the violence in this restive region, often blaming separatists. They, too, offer no further information.
Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN), the long-standing separatist movement that controls virtually all combatants on the ground, doesn’t put out public statements to confirm or deny responsibility for specific incidents.
No eyewitness comes forward, probably for fear of reprisal from the insurgents and because nobody believes the security forces can give them the needed protection should they become a state witness.
So far, this current wave of insurgency has claimed nearly 7,000 lives since January 2004. But life goes on as local Buddhists and Malay Muslims interact on a daily basis, looking for common ground.
In spite of bitter moments that surface every now and then between them, the fabric of society in this historically contested region remains largely intact. In morning eateries and tea shops, ethnic Thai, Chinese and Malays sit side-by-side and chat about low fruit prices and the heat wave.
Police say they are investigating the gruesome case of the mother and daughter shot in the head at close range in broad daylight on a village backroad.
They have not ruled out a personal dispute or robbery as potential motives.
Judging from the way the two victims were killed, it seems like a great deal of trouble for any criminal to go through just to get a motorbike, bracelets and a ring.
And if the past 14 years are any indication, chances that justice will be done are slim. Most criminal cases in the Far South go unsolved.
Information is scarce, truth is relative, and life is cheap.
As for ending the decades-long insurgency that sets the stage for the endless violence in the Far South, officials are busy with other matters in Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok.
Don Pathan is a Thailand-based security and development consultant for international organizations. The opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and not of BenarNews.