Troops kill 2 linked to PULO militant group in Deep South

Mariyam Ahmad
2022.07.08
Pattani, Thailand
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Troops kill 2 linked to PULO militant group in Deep South Thai security forces inspect the area following a counter-insurgency operation in Raman district, Yala province, July 8, 2022.
[BenarNews]

A counter-insurgency operation in Thailand’s Deep South led to the rare killing on Friday of two PULO rebels and arrests of eight others linked to the mostly dormant militant group that has recently expressed interest in joining peace talks.

The operation in Yala province brought to five the number of suspected insurgents killed by the military since Tuesday, officials said, making it the deadliest week of violence in the border region since the government and BRN rebels observed a 40-day ceasefire starting in early April, during Ramadan.

“At about 6 a.m., when officials reached the houses, a gunfight broke out, killing two suspects … another eight surrendered. We believe they were hiding to launch attacks somewhere there,” said police Col. Ratpolchai Pensongkram, chief of the Kota Bharu police station in Yala province.

He and other officials said the eight who surrendered admitted that they and the two slain suspects were members of “PULO G5” or the fifth iteration of the Patani United Liberation Organization rebel group, which was most powerful in the 1990s.

Troops recovered an AK-47 rifle, an M-1 carbine and a 9mm handgun along with two bodies in a field in Mai Khan village, officials said, adding that leaflets inscribed with PULO G5 were found in a nearby house.

The deaths follow a Tuesday operation where different security forces killed a suspected Barisan Revolusion Nasional (BRN) member and captured another during a clash in Pattani. On Wednesday, security forces killed two suspected BRN cell members in Narathiwat province.

The regional army commander confirmed that those killed and captured on Friday were PULO members.

“Today eight men surrendered, admitting they are PULO. They also collaborated with a drug ring to create violence but there must be further investigation,” said Lt. Gen. Kriangkrai Srirak, the commander of the 4th Army Region which oversees the Deep South.

Kasturi Mahkota, the head of PULO-MKP (Majlis Kepimpinan Pertubuhan or Party Leadership Council) questioned the army commander’s statement.

“I haven’t heard a report from the ground about the incident yet. But the accusation of PULO’s drugs involvement is not true,” Kasturi told BenarNews.

Previous violence

On April 15 as Kasturi, who leads one of three PULO factions, expressed interest in joining BRN in peace talks with the government, PULO members took credit for twin bombings that shattered the negotiators’ 40-day ceasefire tied to the Muslim holy month.

Those explosions in Pattani province killed a villager and injured three police bomb squad members.

On Friday, Kriangkrai, the regional army commander, dismissed concerns about the deadly week.

“I acknowledge the summary killings are a concern … but people forget about the attack on the marine police station in Tak Bai which took place after Ramadan ended. Security forces have to enforce the law though we try to practice restraint,” he said.

Authorities said three officers were injured when 10 gunmen armed with assault rifles and grenades attacked a police station near the border with Malaysia.

Still, regional officials said the military seeks peace in the Deep South.

“We continue with the sentiment of Ramadan peace initiative which remains intact and we will have a peace talk this month but I cannot remember the dates,” Kriangkrai said.

The Deep South encompasses Pattani, Narathiwat, Yala provinces and four districts of Songkhla province in Thailand’s majority-Muslim Malay southern border region. Since the insurgency reignited in January 2004, more than 7,000 people have been killed and 13,500 others injured in violence across the region, according to Deep South Watch, a local think-tank.

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