Updated at 12:30 a.m. ET on 2017-03-03
An 8-year-old boy and his parents were among eight people killed in separate attacks in the Thai Deep South that left four injured Thursday, just two days after government and rebel negotiators agreed to set up a limited ceasefire.
Police blamed the attacks in Narathiwat and Pattani provinces on groups seeking to instigate violence following Tuesday’s news out of Kuala Lumpur that a panel representing some southern Thai rebel groups had struck a breakthrough with negotiators from Thailand’s military government.
The two sides announced they would work together to establish a safety zone in one of five districts in the Deep South as a test case to see if they could implement a wider ceasefire.
The attacks began Thursday morning as Somchai Thongchan, 47, the deputy chief of Ban Sri Pinyo village in Narathiwat, his wife Rasika Daduang, sister-in-law Son Thongchan, and son Thanakrit Thongchan, 8, were attacked and killed, police said. A daughter, Sirapassorn Thongchan, 12, and a niece, Yanisa Srisuwan, 6, were injured.
“The incident took place while Somchai and five others were driving to send the children to school. On a remote hill, unknown assailants fired weapons at them, resulting in death and injury,” police Capt. Wanchai told reporters. “We believe it was the work of insurgents who wanted to instigate violence.”
Hours later, Kasem Toyo, a security guard in nearby Yala province, was shot and killed before dusk as he was traveling home in the Mayo district of Pattani.
The violent day ended when three rangers were killed and a postman and civilian were injured while shopping in the Ban Tabae market place in Pattani’s Mayo district, according to investigators.
“As per witness accounts, seven to eight assailants shot those killed and injured while they were walking in the market,” police Capt. Muhammad Madwang, an investigator at Mayo police station, told reporters.
A spokesman for the military’s regional command promised justice.
“The act of these assailants indicates that they are cowardly, wild, lacking in ideology. They should not cite ideology for the Malay people. We will go after them and bring them to justice as soon as possible,” Col. Pramote Prom-in told reporters.
Thursday’s killings occurred a day after police found the bodies of Kajpon Puvavimol and wife Titapha in Thepa district, Songkhla province. They were beaten, tied up with duct tape and thrown into the Thepa River as assailants hijacked their pickup truck and made off with it.
Police found the truck which had been loaded with bombs that failed to detonate, officials said.
Thai junta leader and Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha denounced the killings.
“We need to prevent such bullet-spraying attacks,” Prayuth said, adding “at the moment, we are not done with peace talks. We still need solutions to the problem.”
He stressed the need for safety zones and called them a test to determine if MARA Patani, the panel representing southern Thai rebel groups and factions, could contain violence in the Deep South.
“If they do have potential, talks will go on. If not, they must find a way to non-violence,” Prayuth said.
MARA Patani spokesman Abu Hafiz al-Hakim reiterated the panel’s commitment to resolving the conflict through dialogue and the establishment of safety zones following Tuesday’s agreement.
“We are saddened by today morning’s incidence in Ruso district, Narathiwat, where four people were killed and two injured,” he said through social media after learning about the first incident. “We do not condone violence involving civilians and children and strongly condemn the attack.
“We express our condolences to the victims and their families. We urge the authorities to thoroughly investigate the incidents and bring the perpetrators to justice.”
The killings also drew rebukes from local NGOs.
Ruckchart Suwan, the leader of the Buddhist Network for Peace, posted on Facebook: “We call on the assailants or the supporters of the armed militant group to stop violating human rights. Government officials must bring the perpetrators to justice as soon as possible to prevent more conflict. All parties must have clear and tangible protective measures for soft targets in local areas.”
The most recent talks are the latest effort to bring peace to the predominantly Muslim and Malay-speaking Deep South where nearly 7,000 people have been killed since 2004 in violence associated with the decades-old separatist conflict.
Updates to correct details about the family members slain in Narathiwat and removes mention of Yala province.