Two killed in Thailand unrest

Assailants on motorcycles have killed two villagers, wounded a soldier and set fire to a market in Thailand's troubled Muslim south, police said on Tuesday.

    There are two and a half million Muslims in Thailand

    The four separate incidents were the latest in a spate of

    violence that has claimed more than 200 lives since January,

    despite a pledge by the government to restore peace to the

    impoverished region.

    Fearing daily attacks, dozens of teachers and other civil

    servants in the three southernmost provinces have sought

    permission to own guns. Some have even travelled the 1200 km

    to the capital Bangkok to buy them, police said.

    "Gun shops are getting great business from teachers as many

    of them have already received a permit," said Major General

    Paitoon Pattanasopon, chief of Pattani provincial police.

    Most of the victims, including those in the last 24 hours,

    have been attacked by gun or machete-wielding men on


    Troubled south

    In Yala, police said a 40-year-old Muslim fish vendor was

    shot dead by a motorcycle-riding gunman while on his way home

    from market on Tuesday.

    In Pattani a Buddhist mechanic was gunned down by two men

    on motorcycles at his shop late on Monday. A few hours

    later, attackers threw petrol bombs at a row of houses in a

    market in the same province, setting fire to three shops and

    seven stalls.

    Thai security forces have been
    accused of abuses

    In neighbouring Songkhla province, a Muslim army captain

    was shot while driving to work, although his injuries were not

    life-threatening, police said.

    "The motive is obviously linked to the current unrest in

    the south," Police Lieutenant Colonel Pravit Chorseng said

    . "He had no conflict with anyone."

    Authorities routinely blame

    Muslim "militants" for the daily explosions and killings

    that have revived memories of a separatist insurgency which

    plagued the region in the 1970s and 1980s.

    'War on terror'

    But despite sending in thousands of troops and promising

    millions of dollars in development aid, there has been no

    let-up in the unrest across the three majority-Muslim southernmost provinces,

    which have been under martial law since January.

    The worst violence came at the end of April when troops and

    police killed 108 Muslim activists, including 32 in a mosque

    shootout, prompting accusations of brutality.

    Human rights groups say people in southern Thailand feel like the

    victims of Bangkok's uneven development policies.

    They have also accused Thailand of using the global "war on terror" as an excuse to crack down on dissent in its southern provinces.



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