Five paramilitary soldiers have been killed and one other has been wounded by a roadside bomb in southern Thailand, local police say.
Police said on Friday that the soldiers were travelling in a pick-up vehicle to meet Muslim community leaders in the Saiburi district of Pattani, one of Thailand’s southernmost provinces hit by a near-decade long rebellion which has claimed more than 5,500 lives.
“Five rangers are dead, including the commander who was intially severely wounded,” Sergeant Montri Prommee of Saiburi police told AFP news agency, adding the explosive device was buried in the road.
“They [the insurgents] want to create situations [unrest] on important days,” he added, referring to the timing of the attack on one of the most important Buddhist holidays of the Thai calendar.
The Muslim-majority deep south has yet to curb violence against Thai security forces, or civilians, despite ongoing
peace talks in neighbouring Malaysia.
The attacks come after the first official peace talks between Thai authorities and representatives of rebel group the Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN) in Malaysia in March and another round in April.
Since then, near-daily deadly attacks have renewed questions over whether Thailand is talking to rebel leaders who can control the violence.
Analysts say rebels are using increasingly sophisticated bomb-making and detonation techniques to cause more casualties.
On Thursday another ranger was killed alongside a suspected fighter in a late-night shootout in Narathiwat, which borders Malaysia, while a Buddhist grocer was gunned down in broad daylight the previous day.
Buddhist and Muslims alike fall victim to the fighters, who target security forces, civilians and perceived representatives of state authority such as teachers.
In April rebels involved in the talks said they wanted “liberation” from Thailand, something that General Prayut, Thai army chief, rejected on Wednesday during a trip to the southern province of Yala.