HAT YAI, Thailand (AP) — Five men were fatally shot Monday in southern Thailand, police said, the latest killings in a region plagued by insurgency for more than a decade.
The five were killed at about 1 a.m. as they were meeting at the home of one of the victims, said police Capt. Zulkifli Rasoe, a deputy investigator in Bannangsta district in Yala province. An unknown number of attackers broke into the house and opened fire on the victims before escaping, he said. The victims’ bodies had multiple gunshot wounds to the body and head, and police found shotgun shells and bullet casings at the crime scene.
Police said they were investigating whether the shooting stemmed from a personal conflict or was related to the insurgency.
Predominantly Buddhist Thailand’s three southernmost provinces of Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat are the center of a Muslim separatist insurgency that has claimed the lives of more than 6,500 people since 2004. Monday’s victims were all males, aged between 25 and 39.
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The killings followed another mass shooting in southern Thailand last Thursday in which four villagers were shot dead while panning for gold in a river running through a rubber plantation.
The Thai government has been holding peace talks with a coalition of southern insurgent groups with which it has reached an agreement in principle to establish safe zones for the protection of civilians, but it is unclear if every insurgent group will honor it.
Last week, the deputy chairman of the Pattani Islamic Committee, Aduldej Chenae, was fatally shot by gunmen on motorcycles.
Don Pathan, a security analyst based in southern Thailand, said Aduldej was a key mediator between the insurgents and the government in establishing the peace talks, and that his death would likely prompt others to “think carefully” before getting involved in the talks.
No group has claimed responsibility for the latest shootings, he said.