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Four fruit traders shot dead in Yala

Execution-style killing of Rayong residents follows murders of trainers

Armed men tied up four Buddhist fruit traders then shot them in the head one by one in the latest gruesome attack in Yala in the deep South early yesterday.

Police found the bodies of the victims, who included a woman, with their hands tied behind their backs, in a house in Krong Pinang district at about 1am.

The four, a couple and two men, were from the eastern province of Rayong. They were identified as Thavorn Suvannachote, 35; his wife Tassana Toomporn, 25; Sutat Somroob, 37; and Somchai Ruenrom, 30. According to initial investigation, seven gunmen dressed in black arrived in a pickup, ambushed the group who were having their dinner, tied their hands behind their backs and shot them dead. Police suspect the shootings are the work of an insurgent group led by Issamaae Layalong, which has been involved in the killing of police, soldiers and villagers in Krong Pinang district.

Pol Maj-General Pira Boonlieng, a Yala police chief, said the gunmen parked their vehicle in the soi of Krong Pinang police station before walking to the victims' house.

"The attack was outrageous and has affected people inside and outside the area, as the victims had come to Yala to buy fruit," he said.

He said people fighting for ideological reasons, no matter where they are - the Philippines, Aceh or other places - fight against other fighters. "No fighters fight with civilians or weaker people. This attack was carried out against people without the ability to fight back. The gunmen should reconsider their actions."

He expressed confidence police would be able to take legal action against the gunmen as there was plenty of evidence at the scene. "I already ordered a check be made to see if there are other Thai-Buddhists who have come to the area to buy fruit so we can provide protection for them," he said.

The killings took place less than a week after two rice-farming teachers from the central provinces were killed in Pattani. Two farmers from the central provinces of Suphan Buri and Singburi were in Yala to train local farmers to work under Her Majesty's project to rehabilitate abandoned paddy fields.

Meanwhile in Pattani, the district chief of Ma-Yor, Pisarn Mawae, who survived an attack in broad daylight on Monday, said he still wanted to continue his work and would be more cautious from now on.

Pisarn and other three officials were in a pickup heading to Muang district when another pickup carrying six gunmen travelling in the opposite direction suddenly switched lanes and blocked their vehicle at an intersection.

The gunmen then opened fire on the district chief's bullet-proof car. After seeing Pisarn's vehicle could take the bullets, one of the gunmen jumped from the vehicle and fired directly at Pisarn. A bullet hit the leg of a 16-year-old female student on a motorcycle who was at the scene of attack.

Pisarn has been district chief at Ma-Yor for about four years. He survived an attack in 2007 when he was serving as chief of Pattani's administration branch.

In related news, a 100-strong army-police team yesterday at 2pm arrested a suspected bomber of the Lee Gardens Hotel in Songkhla on March 31 last year, identified as 36-year-old Jehmha Wani, in Thepa district. Songkhla Court had issued seven warrants for the arrest of Jehmha, three for arson attacks on schools in Chana district in August 2007.




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