Unidentified gunmen shot dead two farmers at a remote fruit plantation area in Thailand’s Deep South on Thursday, officials said, in a flare up of violence that has killed at least 24 people in the insurgency-hit region since January this year.
Ahama Taleh, 39, and Abdulroha Hajiyamah, 49, were found dead next to a motorcycle on a hilly dirt road in Yaha, a district in the predominantly Muslim province of Yala, police said. Investigators said the two men were attacked while they were on their way home.
“The shooting took place on a dirt road at the back end of Chokaladee village,” Police Capt. Isawat Yingkong, the deputy investigator for Yaha station, told reporters. “We found a motorcycle that fell on the ground and two men next to it – shot multiple times.”
He said investigators had retrieved three 5.56 mm rifle shells, two 9 mm shells and a 9 mm pistol ammunition at the scene, indicating that there were at least two shooters.
“From initial investigation, two to three gunmen used an M-16 rifle to ambush them, followed by pistol shots after the motorcycle fell,” Isawat said.
He said he could not immediately determine the attackers’ motive, but added that investigators were looking at all angles, including possible involvement of insurgents.
Meanwhile, Police Lt. Col. Paiboon Watatham, investigator for Ra-ngae police station, said a homemade bomb exploded while a group of soldiers were on patrol near Pa Pai railway station in Ra-ngae, a district in the nearby province of Narathiwat.
“Unidentified men triggered the bomb as six soldiers walked by, but none were injured. They were keeping peace for teachers,” Paiboon told reporters. “I believe insurgents wanted to take revenge at officials for the recent deaths of their comrades.”
On Monday, security officials said they killed two suspected insurgents – Useh Jehming and Muhammadsakirin Same – in a jungle area in Ilakoh mountain in Chanae, a district next to Ra-ngae, as they traded gunfire with security forces who were in pursuit operations related to the recent killings of two Buddhist monks.
Col. Pramote Prom-in, spokesman for the Internal Security Operations Command Region 4, told reporters Monday that authorities believe the two men were involved in the Jan. 18 attack at the Ratananupab Temple in Su-ngai Padi district in which the abbot and the vice abbot were killed and two other monks were wounded.
“After the gunfire died down, officials found two men dead,” Pramote said. “Officials found an AK-102 and M-16 A-2 rifle. We believe they were part of gunmen who killed two monks and injured two others at Ratananupab Temple.” He did not elaborate.
About 80 percent of the Buddhist-majority nation’s southern tip is Muslim, populated by descendants of a former Malay Sultanate that was annexed by what was then known as Siam in 1902.
The area, known as Deep South, borders Malaysia and encompasses Pattani, Narathiwat and Yala provinces, as well as four districts in Songkhla province.
A steady stream of shootings and bombings in the region have claimed at least 7,000 lives since the insurgency flared up in early 2004.