Four people were killed in a late-night attack by suspected Muslim insurgents on a military outpost in Thailand’s violence-wracked south, authorities said yesterday.
The attack comes as anger increases over the case of a Muslim rebel suspect who was left in a critical condition after spending several hours in a notorious army interrogation unit.
The 15-year conflict in the Malay-Muslim majority “Deep South” has left more than 7,000 people dead, but garners little global attention.
Rebels seeking autonomy for the culturally distinct “Deep South” have been fighting the Buddhist-majority Thai state, which colonized the area more than a century ago.
Late on Tuesday, militants struck a remote army base in Pattani Province, throwing grenades and laying down nearly an hour of automatic fire, an army spokesman told reporters.
“Four people were killed, including an army sergeant-major, two defense volunteers and a villager,” Colonel Thanawee Suwannarat said.
The rebels stole five machine guns, burned tires and scattered spikes on the road as they fled to hamper any chase, he added.
Confirming the death toll, a Pattani police officer said that, in one of the deadliest single incidents to hit the region in months, two other people were sent to the hospital in critical condition.
The attack comes four days after suspect Abdulloh Esormusor was left unconscious after being arrested under martial law and taken to a notorious military camp in Pattani.
Thailand’s army is investigating how the 34-year-old came to be hospitalized with brain swelling hours after arriving at the Inkayuth camp.
An army statement said the camp doctor recorded the suspect arriving in good health, but said he was later found unconscious after being held in the “interrogation center.”
Inkayuth is the army’s biggest detention center in the south, where rebel suspects are taken for questioning and held under the emergency laws governing the conflict-scarred region.
The army has vowed to punish anyone found guilty of abuse.
However, critics say impunity reigns in the south — no military personnel have ever been successfully prosecuted for abuses over the conflict.
Sunai Phasuk of Human Rights Watch speculated that Tuesday’s attack “was in retaliation” for the treatment of Abdulloh.
An umbrella group representing some of the rebel groups said they suspected “foul play” in Abdulloh’s case and called for an international probe.
Insurgents operating in small, secretive village-level cells carry out near-daily bomb attacks and shootings in the south, including the murder of Buddhist civilians and Muslims perceived to be collaborating with the state.
Attacks are often a swift and targeted kickback against arrests or deaths of suspected rebels or Muslim civilians.
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