HAT YAI, Thailand (AP) – Gunmen presumed to be insurgents stormed a Buddhist temple in southern Thailand, killing two monks and wounding two others, police said yesterday.
The attack in Narathiwat province last Friday night was the latest in a recent upsurge of violence in the area, which since 2004 has been plagued by a separatist insurgency that has claimed about 7,000 lives. Narathiwat is one of Thailand’s three southernmost provinces.
Witnesses described seeing armed men arrive at the temple on motorcycles, open fire with automatic weapons and then storm inside where they shot the monks in their quarters, according to Thai news report. One of those killed was the temple’s abbot.
The temple attack was one of several violent incidents in Narathiwat on Friday, including a roadside bombing that wounded five members of security forces, and a shoot-out between paramilitary rangers and five armed men that left one of the gunmen dead. The others escaped.
The attacks have occurred during an effort to revitalize peace talks between the Thai government and some insurgent groups, and may be an effort to scuttle them by stoking popular outrage and inviting heavy handed retaliation.
Analysts said the most militant group, the Barisan Revolusi Nasional, BRN, is not taking part in the talks.
The New York-based group Human Rights Watch has pinned the blame for the ongoing violence on the BRN.
“The ghastly attack on Buddhist monks by insurgents in Thailand’s deep south is morally reprehensible and a war crime, and those responsible should be held to account,” said Asia Director at Human Rights Watch Brad Adams.
“The insurgents’ 15-year campaign of deliberately attacking civilians can’t be justified.”