By CS Thana
BANGKOK (AA) - Three separatist insurgents were killed in Thailand’s troubled Muslim south Wednesday after clashes with government forces.
Channel 7 Television reported the clashes happened around 6 a.m. (2300GMT Tuesday) in Narathiwat Province when government forces moved in to clear an insurgent camp in Chanae district.
Insurgents reportedly opened fire on the government forces, prompting a firefight that lasted around an hour.
Local officials told Channel 7 that three insurgents were left dead and one security official injured in the operation.
Meanwhile, another clash in Rangae district left a soldier dead, according to the Bangkok Post, which said additional details were not available.
The southern insurgency is rooted in a century-old ethno-cultural conflict between the Malay Muslims living in the southern region and the Thai central state where Buddhism is considered the de-facto national religion.
Armed insurgent groups were formed in the 1960s after the then-military dictatorship tried to interfere in Islamic schools, but the insurgency faded in the 1990s.
It surged again in 2004 and rapidly escalated as the government of then-prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra severely repressed the rebels, leading to numerous human rights abuses.
Over 6,500 people -- Buddhists and Muslims -- have been killed and over 11,000 injured since 2004.
After a marked decrease in violence in 2015, the number of incidents since the beginning of 2016 has increased, with several large-scale operations.
On Feb. 27, a car bomb in Pattani province injured seven police officers, while a March 13 raid in broad daylight on a hospital in Cho Airong district in Narathiwat left seven security volunteers and soldiers injured.