Gunmen killed two people in separate attacks in the Thai Deep South on Monday, police said, days after Thailand’s chief negotiator in regional peace talks expressed hope that negotiations with rebels could soon resume after a three-month COVID-19 hiatus.
Meanwhile, A supporter of Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN), the largest and most powerful of insurgent groups in the southern border region, told Benar News that the group was “ready to talk at any time.”
On Monday, a deputy village headman and a timber worker were gunned down in attacks that took place in Pattani and Yala provinces, according to police who did not rule out that rebels could be linked to the killings.
Mayusi Jehoh, the village official, was shot in the morning at a home in Sai Buri, the Pattani district where he lived, a local police official told reporters.
“According to witnesses, the slain man was visiting a house there when unidentified gunmen produced a handgun and shot him multiple times before they managed to escape,” said police Col. Mana Dejawarith, the chief of Sai Buri police station.
“We are looking into possible motives,” he said.
Hours later, Gusnee Sueno was fatally shot in the head while resting in a room at the lumber mill where he worked in Bannang Sata, a district of Yala, authorities said.
Both victims of the separate attacks died at local hospitals, officials said.
The attacks took place three days after Gen. Wanlop Rugsnaoh, the head of Thailand’s delegation in Malaysia-brokered peace negotiations with southern separatist insurgents, told BenarNews that he was looking to restart direct talks with the BRN in July or August, after the coronavirus pandemic had subsided further.
Thailand and a panel representing the rebel group’s military wing held two rounds of talks in Kuala Lumpur earlier this year, but the process was disrupted when the neighboring countries imposed COVID-19 lockdowns in mid-March.
On Monday, a BRN sympathizer who administers a Facebook page believed to be linked to supporters of the rebel group responded to questions from BenarNews about the prospect of peace talks resuming in the near future.
“In regard to the meeting when Malaysia opens the country, we have no problem, we are ready to talk at any time,” the administrator of the social media page said via a text message Monday without revealing his or her identity. “We are in a ceasefire state, though the Siam-Thai state provokes us and makes us look like a terrorist organization in the eyes of the world community.”
The source was referring to a unilateral ceasefire declared by BRN on humanitarian grounds on April 3, saying it was ceasing “all activities” to allow medical workers to be unimpeded while they responded to the coronavirus pandemic across the Deep South.
A lull in violence lasted for about a month after the ceasefire declaration. But Monday’s killings brought to at least 12 the number of people, including four suspected insurgents, who have died in violence across the Deep South since BRN declared the ceasefire, according to a tally of police statistics compiled by BenarNews.
“The incidents that took place in later weeks are normal because the organization [BRN] wanted to demonstrate their potential and signal that the group exists and is able to mount attacks at any time, though it reduced their intensity during the COVID time,” professor Srisompob Jitpiromsri, the director of Deep South Watch, a local think-tank, told BenarNews.
More than 7,000 people have died in violence across the various provinces and districts that make up Thailand’s mainly Muslim and Malay-speaking southern border region since the separatist insurgency reignited in 2004.