By CS Thana
BANGKOK (AA) – A village chief and his assistant have been killed in Thailand’s Muslim south in an attack by suspected insurgents in troubled Narathiwat province.
An army captain who requested anonymity citing ongoing investigations told Anadolu Agency on Tuesday that Anuwa Sulong, the chief of Bango Dudong village, and his assistant were shot dead while inspecting a well alongside local military officials late Monday.
"Three army rangers accompanying the village officials were also injured and sent to a local hospital," said the official.
The injured told authorities that the suspected insurgents had pulled up alongside the well on a pickup truck and opened fire with M16 assault rifles.
A preliminary investigation of the scene found several spent M16 cartridges.
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 Muslim 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.