Fifteen people were killed, while four others were injured after an attack in Yala, a province in Thailand’s turbulent south on Tuesday, November 5.
This is the largest death toll in the area in years. An army spokesperson told AFP that they suspect the attack was perpetrated by Muslim rebels.
Yala, and its neighboring provinces Pattani and Narathiwat, regularly face violence. The region borders Malaysia and its people are predominantly Malay-Islam, unlike the rest of Thailand that is largely Buddhist. This has led local militants to ask for autonomy from the rest of the country. Since 2004, nearly 7,000 have died in the hands of the seperatist movement in this area.
Rungrawee Chalermsripinyorat, an independent analyst based in Australia, told the BBC that due to the “style of attack and choice of target,” this most recent incident could have been caused by the Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN), one of the three main separatist groups in the region.
"It had received little attention internationally [but] it is not an exaggeration to say this is the most deadly conflict in Southeast Asia," she said yesterday.
The incident saw militants striking two checkpoints. Southern army spokesperson Pramote Prom-in said that the militants opened fire on the civil defence volunteers at the checkpoints and on a group of villagers who had stopped to talk.
“Twelve were killed at the scene, two more [died] at the hospital, and one died this morning,” Pramote said. He added that the militants took M-16 rifles and shotguns with them from the checkpoints.
The areas around the checkpoint are now facing forensic investigations.
Seperatist militant attacks were not as frequent in the area until tensions escalated in 2004. Militants usually target Thai security forces or symbols of the state, with civilians regularly getting caught in the crossfire.