A roadside bomb believed to have been planted by separatist rebels killed six soldiers and wounded four in one of the deadliest attacks against security forces in Thailand’s insurgency-stricken Deep South, officials said.
The attack, which took place in the Thung Yang Daeng district in the southern province of Pattani, is the biggest attack since Muslims in the Deep South began observing the fasting month, Ramadan, on May 27, according to military statistics.
Military spokesman Col. Pramote Prom-in told reporters an unknown number of attackers detonated the bomb “hidden under the road surface.”
“Based on initial investigation, I believe the attack was carried out by insurgents who want to disrupt peace,” Maj. Pompetch Chatoklang, a police investigator, told BenarNews in a separate interview.
No group or individual claimed responsibility for the bombing.
Since local Muslims began observing the Ramadan fast about four weeks ago, at least 25 people have been killed and 26 others injured in separate insurgency-related bombing and shooting incidents, military officials said.
The Monday attack matches the death toll of a roadside ambush in Narathiwat province, also in Thailand’s restive Deep South, in April, during which suspected insurgents opened fire at a truck carrying soldiers after detonating a roadside bomb, officials said.
About 7,000 people have been killed since 2004 in violence associated with the conflict in the Malay-speaking, majority Muslim Deep South.
Since 2014, Thailand’s military-led government and an umbrella group representing various southern rebel groups have held a handful of meetings aimed at restarting official peace talks.
In February, MARA Patani and a government delegation agreed to a framework for setting up a safety zone – or limited cease-fire – in one of the districts in four southern provinces where insurgents are known to operate, before the end of this year. But attempts to restart peace talks have stalled.
Reacting to the bombing on Monday, Nimu Makajae, a respected Muslim leader in southern Yala province, called on Muslims to refrain from violent activities during Ramadan.
“In the last 10 days of Ramadan, Muslims must maintain good deeds, do good to others. Muslims shall not hurt others,” Nimu told BenarNews. “We, Muslims, are very sad to see Muslims cause pain to neighbors, cause turmoil in society and cause death and injuries during Ramadan.”