Attack leaves 18 injured in Thailand’s Muslim south

SHAFAQNA - Insurgents attacked village outpost and set it ablaze, police and gunmen then trading fire for more than half an hour.

Investigations are continuing into a violent attack by separatist insurgents in Thailand’s south that left almost 20 people injured, an official confirmed Saturday.

Internal Security Operations Command spokesman Colonel Banphot Phunphien told Anadolu Agency that 18 people were injured in the incident but none face life-threatening injuries.

The injuries occurred after insurgents — thought to be Muslims separatists — attacked a village outpost in Yala province manned by volunteer security personnel with small arms fire and grenades on Friday morning before escaping by road.

The initial attack is reported to have left leaving six of the volunteers severely injured and the outpost ablaze after the attackers threw petrol bombs onto its roof.

The local volunteers — drawn from local towns — have been trained to guard villages and other key locations by a military government determined clamp down on insurgency in the region.

Police have said they exchanged gunfire with the insurgents for more than half an hour — several more volunteers sustaining injuries as they ran out of the burning outpost.

The southern insurgency is rooted in a century-old ethno-cultural conflict between the Malay Muslims living in the provinces of Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat and some districts of Songhkla, and the Thai central state where Buddhism is de facto considered the national religion.

Armed insurgent groups were formed in the 1960s after the then-military dictatorship tried to interfere in Islamic schools. The Patani United Liberation Organization (PULO) had been the dominant rebel group until it faded away in the middle of the 1990s.

In 2004, a rejuvenated armed movement — composed of numerous local cells of fighters loosely grouped around the Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN) or National Revolutionary Front — re-emerged. Since then, the conflict has killed 6,400 people and injured over 11,000, making it one of the deadliest low-intensity conflict on the planet.

A peace dialogue had begun under the elected government of former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra in 2013, but was suspended in December that year due to political tensions in Bangkok.

The May 22, 2014 coup against Yingluck’s government that brought the junta to power added more uncertainty to a possible peaceful solution to the conflict, despite the military expressing commitment to pursue talks.

Six rebel groups, including PULO and BRN, have recently set up a Consultative Council of Patani, under the name MARA Patani, in order to coordinate for eventual peace talks. But as noted by the International Crisis Group report, “BRN hardliners remain uncommitted”.

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