Masked gunmen shot and killed five men in a cockfighting pen in Thailand’s Deep South province of Yala on Monday, while another was shot dead in another part of the insurgency-wracked region, officials said.
Also on Monday, police announced that an Islamic leader who was shot three days ago was pronounced dead and officers filed arrest warrants for eight suspects in the killing of four members of a family who were gunned down while panning for gold in another Muslim-majority province.
“According to initial investigation, four unknown assailants wearing black balaclavas sprayed bullets at the victims while they were talking at the premises where there was a cockfighting pen,” police Capt. Sulklifeh Rasoh told reporters.
He said the gunmen fled on two motorcycles.
The dead were identified as Ibraheng Museh, 32, who owned the property, Aranchai Doheh, 26, Uzman Yusof, 39, Furgon Raso, 25, and Ahama Museh, 33.
Meanwhile, in Yala’s Yaha district, gunmen shot Adul Maneeyoh, 40, at his home, First Lt. Pongpisut Kongreaunrong told reporters.
Violent attacks during Ramadan have surpassed those of last year – 25 dead and 15 injured so far, compared to 15 dead and 16 injured in 2017 – according to information compiled from police and military reports.
The separate killings occurred just days after a man, his two sons and a son-in-law were shot dead Thursday as they were panning for gold at a river bank in Namtok village in Narathiwat province.
Police found spent shells from M16 rifles and authorities said results from a ballistics test confirmed that the shells matched three rifles used by insurgents in four other deadly attacks since April 2015.
“We confirm that the killings were conducted by insurgents in the areas. At this stage, we are able to issue arrest warrants against eight suspects,” Col. Thawatchai Duksukkaew, who oversees Narathiwat Police Bureau, told reporters Monday.
Thawatchai did not identify the suspects.
An Islamic leader dead
In a separate development, an Islamic leader in neighboring Pattani province who was shot in Saiburi district Friday afternoon was pronounced dead early Sunday, police said.
Aduldej Jenae, deputy chairman of Pattani’s Islamic Committee, was shot after he left a mosque following Friday prayers.
“We do not rule out any possible causes. ... The deceased is a VIP and this is an important case so we must find the truth,” Maj. Piyawat Chalermsri, the commander of police in the Deep South, told reporters on Monday.
Thailand’s provincial Islamic committee members serve as government advisers on issuing certificates on meat products that are considered “halal,” denoting the products were prepared as prescribed by Muslim law. They also are involved in issuing local certificates and act as mediators on religious issues.
Aduldej was a member of the Islamic Committee of Pattani, which was to provide a “safe-house” location for three insurgents whose parole was a condition set by separatist rebels for ongoing peace talks.
Authorities have not made any arrests.
Since 2015, Thailand’s military government has held rounds of peace talks with MARA Patani, a panel representing various southern insurgent groups and factions. But so far, the Malaysia-brokered negotiations have failed to produce a Safety Zone, or geographically limited ceasefire, which is seen as a linchpin to prospects of future peace in the Deep South.
Almost 7,000 people have been killed in violence in the region since the decades-old insurgency reignited in 2004.