HAT YAI, Thailand (AP) — Gunmen with grenade launchers and other heavy weapons attacked a police checkpoint early Monday in southern Thailand, injuring six officers, in what appeared to be the latest violence by Muslim separatists who have been fighting for more than a decade.
Police Capt. Pongsak Khaonuan said an unknown number of attackers used M-79 grenade launchers and other weapons to attack the checkpoint in Yala province before dawn. The gunmen retreated when police fired back.
Three other attacks last week resulted in the deaths of an army ranger and a policeman in the deep south provinces of Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat, the only ones with Muslim-majorities in Buddhist-dominated Thailand. About 7,000 people have been killed since the insurgency flared in 2004.
Monday’s attackers scattered nails on the road to the checkpoint to hinder any assistance for the police, puncturing the tire of an ambulance that came to the scene.
Police said they had no specific suspects, but it followed a familiar pattern of attacks by the separatists. They said it was not necessarily linked to last week’s violence.
“They do this anyway if they have the opportunity,” said Yuthanam Petchmuang, a deputy spokesman for the military’s security department that oversees the region.
On-again, off-again talks with some — but not all — separatist factions are still in the early stages. After recent killings of some schoolchildren, there has been discussion of establishing “safe zones” for civilians. Yuthanam said the proposal is still being finalized.
“The recent incidents are nothing out of the ordinary,” said Don Pathan, a security analyst specializing in southern Thailand. “The attacks increase and decrease on their own rhythm.”