PATTANI, Thailand (AP) — An 11-month-old baby was among seven people killed Tuesday by suspected Islamist separatists, police said, as a bloody insurgency in southern Thailand that has killed thousands of people heads toward its ninth year.
Five people were killed and another four wounded in a drive-by shooting at a tea shop in Narathiwat province's Ra-ngae district, said local police chief Col. Jiradej Prasawang. The dead included 11-month-old Efahni Samoh, while the wounded included a 10-month-old boy, Muhammad Yaena.
Jiradej said the shop may have been targeted by the gunmen, who were firing AK-47 assault rifles, because the owner is a village official. Officials and teachers, as representatives of the state, are prime targets for the insurgents, whose terror tactics are also thought to be aimed at scaring Buddhist residents fleeing the region.
In a separate incident, five attackers shot dead a principal and a teacher at a school in neighboring Pattani province's Mayo district before stealing a pickup truck as they fled, said Mayo police chief Col. Kong-art Suwannakham. The total number of school personnel killed in such attacks is now 157, according to the regional teachers association.
More than 5,000 people have been killed in the three Muslim-dominated southernmost provinces of Buddhist-dominated Thailand since an Islamist insurgency erupted in 2004.
"Successive governments have opted to muddle through Southeast Asia's most violent internal conflict, deploying tens of thousands of security forces and spending billions of dollars to little effect," the Brussels-based International Crisis Group think tank said Tuesday as it released a report on the conflict.
"Insurgents have withstood and adapted to the military's tactics, growing more proficient and daring in the process," it said. "While there is greater pressure on leaders to reduce violence and seek a resolution, political infighting and bureaucratic inertia continue to impinge on a comprehensive approach."
The group recommended that Thailand's government "reverse the militarization of the southernmost provinces, lift the Draconian security laws and end the security forces' impunity, all of which help stimulate the insurgency."