BANGKOK: Suspected Muslim militants have shot dead 11 people including three paramilitary rangers in a single day of bloodshed in Thailand's insurgency-plagued deep south, police said Tuesday.
The rangers were ambushed while travelling in a pick-up truck on Monday in Pattani province in the Muslim-majority border region, where an eight-year conflict has claimed thousands of lives.
On the same day, four Buddhist rubber tappers died on their way to work in two separate gun attacks in Pattani, while a pair of Muslim men were killed in a drive-by shooting in neighbouring Yala province, police said.
Two vegetable vendors were also shot dead in Songkhla province, which had been relatively untouched by the violence until a number of attacks this year, including a series of car bombs in April that left 15 people dead.
A complex insurgency calling for greater autonomy has plagued Thailand's far south near the border with Malaysia since 2004, claiming more than 5,300 lives, both Buddhist and Muslim, with near daily bomb or gun attacks.
The authorities said in August they were holding informal peace talks with some Muslim insurgent groups, in an apparent policy reversal that followed a spike in attacks.
“Some militant groups don't want a peaceful solution so they look for an opportunity to terrorise people,” southern army spokesman Colonel Pramote Prom-in told AFP on Tuesday.
“We're trying to find measures to prevent this kind of violence but still haven't succeeded,” he added.
The militants are not thought to be part of a global jihad movement but are rebelling against a history of perceived discrimination against ethnic Malay Muslims by successive Thai governments and alleged rights abuses by the army.