Three killed in shop attack
Eleven wounded, three critically; Army hopes next month's amnesty will convince insurgents to lay down arms
Two people were killed and 11 others, including six soldiers, were injured in a bomb blast in Rangae district yesterday when they arrived to inspect the scene of the killing of a motorbike shop owner.
Three of the soldiers from Task Force 34 are in critical condition in hospital.
Kim Sae-Kong was shot dead in his shop earlier in what officials believe was part of a plot to lure authorities to the scene with the aim of killing them with a bomb hidden in a motorbike.
Suspected Muslim insurgents have used such tactics several times with success over the past few months in order to create greater casualties among the authorities and to bring fear to the restive South. Meanwhile, Police Lt-Corporal Uthit Sanitnong was shot dead late on Saturday night while on patrol outside a village in Yarang district in Pattani province.
Earlier yesterday, a combined force of 100 police, soldiers and local officials raided two villages in Rangae district but did not find any evidence related to insurgents.
Police and soldiers are among the most targeted groups by the insurgents, but teachers and local government officials were also targeted in the bomb attacks.
The government has initiated several projects and policies - including the Emergency Law - aimed at curbing the violence and restoring peace in the region, with little success.
The Army, however, hopes an amnesty will win over the insurgents, who have been invited to surrender next month, Army commander-in-chief General Sonthi Boonyaratglin told TNA yesterday.
The amnesty is designed to give young fighters a chance to "turn over a new leaf" if they are ambivalent about their involvement in a murderous underground army, he said.
The scheme will coincide with the creation of new ranger units made up of local recruits from the three troubled provinces of Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat.
He said the Army was willing to spend around Bt750 million a year supporting these new units.
More than 1,300 people have been killed in the Muslim-majority provinces since January 2004.
The Army has said many times that it had made intelligence breakthroughs and important militant arrests, yet appears unable to contain the attacks on officials, teachers, police and civilians.
Military analysts said that both schemes might appear sensible
but that they would struggle to overcome the suspicion of the overwhelmingly Muslim population of the southern provinces, where militants often closely
monitor the allegiance of ordinary people.Previous amnesties have proven unpopular and attempts to create village militia became controversial after reports that many villagers gave up their government guns to insurgents.The government is concerned about at least containing the violence in the three southern provinces and away from important tourist centres like Phuket and the capital Bangkok.The failure of the insurgent groups to make any specific demands or even to properly identify themselves has helped confound the authorities.
It is widely assumed the rebels want autonomy or independence.Sonthi said strong efforts would be made to persuade ordinary Muslims to join the ranger units and to get involved with bringing peace to the South.
In the past, locally recruited security units have been made up of Buddhists, often with a limited ability to communicate in the local language, a dialect of Malay.