YALA — Four soldiers were shot dead while they were driving in the restive province of Yala this evening.
The bodies of the soldiers, who were returning from a football event, appeared to have been dragged out of their vehicle and left on the center of the road in Raman district. The officer's weapons, which included three assualt rifles and one handgun, were missing when their bodies were found.
Police say they believe the attack was carried out by local Islamic separatists who are seeking to secede the three Muslim-majority provinces of Yala, Narathiwat, and Pattani.
The region, known colloquially as the Deep South, was annexed by Thailand in the early 20th century. Unlike the rest of Thailand, whose population is more than 90 percent Buddhist, the majority of residents in the Deep South are Muslim and speak a Malay dialect.
Since the most recent waves of secessionist violence broke out in 2004, insurgents have staged near-daily bomb attacks and shootings, claiming the lives of more than 6,200 people, according to data collected by human rights groups.
Earlier today, Lt.Gen. Prakarn Chollayuth, commander of the Fourth Region Army, met with around 1,000 Muslim clerics from local mosques in Narathiwat province and warned against extremists who cite religious beliefs in the name of violence.
"Local mosques, which are center of communities, should be used to the fullest benefit as a place of worship, a place that helps people have faith in religion and goodness, and a center of teachings that are correct and pure," Lt.Gen. Prakarn said. "You must not allow the abuse of religious beliefs into an incorrect or illegal ways that may threaten national security."
Lt.Gen. Prakarn also expressed his hope that local residents in the Deep South would continue to support the government and reject the use of violence in the region.
For comments, or corrections to this article please contact: [email protected]