Four killed in school attack in restive Thai south

Reuters , September 28, 2011

Suspected Muslim insurgents shot dead four soldiers and wounded two people, including a child, in an ambush at a school in Thailand’s restive south on Wednesday, police said, the latest attack in the troubled region bordering Malaysia.

Soldiers in a unit that protects teachers, often targets because of their association with the Thai state, were attacked by up to 20 gunmen in the Rue sor district of Narathiwat province, police said.

A six-year-old Muslim student was among those wounded in the attack, which took place just hours after suspected insurgents burned 29 closed-circuit television cameras in Pattani province. There were no reports of casualties in that attack.

More than 4,800 people have been killed in seven years of unrest as ethnic Malay Muslims fight for autonomy from Thailand’s Buddhist majority in the region just a few hours by car from some of Thailand’s best-known tourist beaches.

Local Muslims largely oppose the presence of tens of thousands of police, soldiers and state-armed Buddhist guards in rubber-rich region, which was part of a Malay Muslim sultanate until annexed by Thailand a century ago.

About 80 percent of Thailand’s three southern provinces of Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat are Muslim.

The violence has ranged from drive-by shootings to bombings and beheadings. It often targets Buddhists and Muslims associated with the Thai state, such as police, soldiers, government officials and teachers.

(Reporting by Surapan Boonthanom and Jutarat Skulpichetrat; Editing by Jason Szep and Sugita Katyal)