NARATHIWAT — The Thai military says it detained two members of the southern separatist movement following a gunfight in the border province of Narathiwat today.
More than 30 soldiers, police officers, and paramilitary rangers raided an outpost in the jungle behind Ipayae village at 6am this morning after receiving intelligence that insurgents were gathering there to prepare attacks during the holy Islamic month Ramadan, said Col. Ekkawuth Kongkhakhet, the commander of the operation.
The security officers reportedly encountered gunfire from the militants, prompting them to return fire. Col. Ekkawuth said the gunfight lasted for 10 minutes, and that eight insurgents managed to escape while two others were captured by security officers. No injuries were reported.
The two suspects have been identified as Soma Samae and Ibrahim Uma. They are being detained at 48th Ranger Division for interrogation.
According to Col. Ekkawuth, officers also found two handguns and ammunition at the camp, which consisted of three sleeping tents.
He said the evidence will undergo forensic testing to determine whether it was used in any previous "national security case."
The protracted conflict between Islamic insurgents and authorities in southern Thailand has claimed the lives of more than 6,200 people in the region, known as the Deep South. The separatists are seeking to secede the area, which borders Malaysia and was annexed by Thailand in the early 20th century.
At least 60,000 security officers are posted in the region, and have often struggled to secure the trust of local residents because of the impunity granted to officers accused of excessive brutality and foul play.
During a raid in Pattani province last month, security officers shot and killed four men who an investigative panel later determined were innocent and had no links to the insurgency. The military initially identified the victims as members of a militant group that regularly stages attacks in the region.