Elsewhere in the south three Thais of Chinese descent were shot dead in Pattani province as the Chinese community ushered in the Lunar New Year.

'Hearts and minds'

Surayud Chulanont, the prime minister, insisted that no more troops were needed in the region, saying instead that he would pursue his "hearts and minds" campaign to win over the population.

"Our work now needs to focus on building co-operation between government officials and the people, to get rid of their apprehension of authorities," he said.

The latest violence came just two days after Surayud
said his the government wanted to hold talks with Muslim separatist fighters.

Selina Downes, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Bangkok, said: "Up until now the attacks in the south have been very ad hoc, we haven't seen any sort of co-ordinated rebellion and this has made it very difficult for the Thai authorities to know who is behind the attacks and how to do deal with it."

Extra security forces

Colonel Wichai Thongdaeng, a military spokesman, said extra security forces had been deployed across the region amid warnings that more attacks are possible.
 
He said it was difficult to prevent further attacks as "we don't know where the rebels will strike".
 
The attacks mainly targeted homes and businesses owned by Buddhists or ethnic Chinese in the four Muslim-majority provinces in Thailand's south, army officials said.

"They want to frighten Buddhists and ethnic Chinese living there so that they will leave the region," Colonel Acar Tiproch, an army spokesman, said.
 
More than 2,000 people have died in attacks in the region since violence first erupted in 2004.