Thailand, the 8th of September 2010: Attacks included drive-by shootings and bombings, targeting both Muslims and the region’s minority Buddhists across Monday evening and throughout Tuesday. Those killed by the attacks, blamed on separatist militants, included two teachers and a defence volunteer, all gunned down in drive-by style shootings.
The death of two Buddhist teachers on Tuesday morning in Narathiwat has prompted the Teachers Federation to urge the immediate closure of 365 schools across the province in a bid to ensure teacher safety following the upsurge in violence. The federation has also asked military and security personnel active in the region to better ensure the safety of teachers and students against further attacks.
The shootings, including the death of a Buddhist defence volunteer gunned down in a drive-by shooting, come just two days after suspected ethnic Malay rebels torched government offices, bus shelters, shops and phone booths in simultaneous attacks in seven districts of Narathiwat, which border Malaysia.
In an area which the Thai government has pledged nearly US$2 billion over five years, to help ease the economic disparity in the impoverished region and reduce the number of recruits to the rebels, attacks of this nature go unreported everyday. The region along with being a key transport-trade route through to neighbouring Malaysia is also responsible for 10% of the nation’s rubber production. Thailand is the largest exporter in the world for rubber.
Two other provinces in Thailand’s declared ‘red-zone’ have seen an upsurge in violence, with one Buddhist rubber tapper wounded from an explosion in Bannang Sata, considered the most dangerous area in the Yala region. In addition, a Muslim woman has been killed and three soldiers injured as a result of a roadside bombing in the same region.
Drive-by shootings in the third volatile southern province of Pattani have resulted in the death of two Muslims, killed in separate drive-by shootings, while an assistant village leader was badly wounded when unknown assailants sprayed automatic gunfire at his vehicle.
This most recent violence brings the death toll to 19 in the past 10 days, with 38 people wounded. Since 2004 there has been 4,100 deaths and nearly 8,000 injuries reported by police, however independent sources continue to speculate that the death toll could be much higher with many rural area’s under little or no protection by authorities.
No credible group has claimed responsibility for the attacks, which the government and external analysts believe is the work of separatist militants seeking independence or some form of self-governance in the deep-southern provinces.