Updated at 5:41 a.m. ET on 2019-11-06
At least 15 civilians, defense volunteers and police were killed and four others injured in suspected insurgent attacks on two security outposts in Thailand's Deep South late Tuesday, officials said Wednesday (local time).
Police said the incidents — the deadliest outburst of violence in a single day this year in the southern border region, and among the bloodiest attacks since the insurgency reignited 15 years ago — took place before midnight at the outposts in Ban Tung Sadao village in Yala province, a few days after Thai security forces killed two suspected insurgents.
“As defense volunteers were minding check points at the outposts, unknown attackers rode motorcycles while some snuck in on foot to open fire at them using assault rifles and pistols. Officials tried to return fire,” Lammai police station chief Col. Taweesak Thongsongsi said.
“They then retreated into a nearby rubber plantation,” he said. “We believe they are insurgents.”
Yala officials reported that five civilians were among the 15 people killed along with police, government officials and defense volunteers.
Taweesak said the attackers also set off an improvised explosive device (IED) at a lamppost, burned car tires and spread nails across roads to disrupt security forces’ efforts to pursue them.
By Wednesday morning, Yala police found two unexploded IEDs and tried to defuse them.
A military official who asked not to be named because he was not authorized to speak publicly said it was likely the insurgents reacted to the deaths of two comrades last week.
“We believe they wanted to exact revenge,” the official told BenarNews.
Early Friday, Thai security officers killed two suspected insurgents after they allegedly refused to stop their motorcycle at a checkpoint in Pattani, another province in the Deep South, as officials blocked a road while searching for a car-bomb suspect.
In Bangkok, a defense ministry spokesman condemned the attacks in Yala.
“It is a cruel, barbarian and inhumane act of Deep South insurgents who hurled hand grenades and shot at civilians,” Lt. Gen. Kongcheap Tantrawanit said Wednesday.
The killings brought to at least 95 the death toll in violence connected to the southern insurgency so far this year, according to information compiled by BenarNews from police and military reports.
The Thai Deep South borders Malaysia and encompasses Pattani, Narathiwat and Yala provinces as well as four districts in Songkhla. Nearly 7,000 people have been killed in the mainly Muslim and Malay-speaking region since the separatist insurgency reignited 15 years ago.
CORRECTION: An earlier version misidentified the chief of the Lammai police station as Sodsong Thongsongsi.