YALA, Thailand (AFP) - – Five people, including at least two soldiers, were killed in the latest wave of violence in Thailand's insurgency-plagued far south, police said.
Unknown gunmen travelling in a pick-up truck on Saturday shot dead two government troops providing security for Buddhist monks receiving alms in Yala, one of three Muslim-majority southern provinces under a state of emergency.
Soon afterwards in a nearby town, police found the bodies of two unidentified men who had apparently been slashed to death.
One was found with a T-shirt that suggested he might have been a soldier from an army camp in the region. The other had a uniform from a religious school.
Police said they were investigating a possible link between the two incidents.
The deaths came a day after a 29-year-old suspected militant was reported to have been killed in a shoot-out with security forces in neighbouring Pattani province.
Southern Thailand's southernmost provinces of Pattani, Narathiwat, and Yala have been plagued by a largely home-grown insurgency that has claimed approximately 4500 lives since 2001. Thailand. File Photos 08/2008
One police officer was wounded in the standoff, while a 13-year-old was injured by a stray bullet, the authorities said.
Suspected Islamic insurgents have waged a violent campaign in Thailand's deep south near the border with Malaysia for about seven years, targeting Muslims and Buddhists, civilians and security personnel.
More than 4,400 people have died since January 2004, while over 7,000 have been injured, according to the non-governmental organisation Deep South Watch, which monitors the conflict.