Yala province is one of three mostly Muslim southern provinces that have been wracked by violence since a separatist movement flared up in 2004 after a lull of more than two decades.
Drive-by shootings and bombings occur almost daily and more than 3,000 people have been killed since 2004.

The government has made little progress in curbing the violence despite the presence of nearly 40,000 police and soldiers in the south.

More than 90 per cent of Thailand's 65 million people are Buddhists, and many of the country's Muslims have long complained that they are treated as second-class citizens.