Rebels in Thailand have killed eight soldiers. The predominately Buddhist country has seen growing resistance to central government rule in the Muslim-majority southern provinces since 2004.
The 50-kilogram (110-pound) bomb exploded as the soldiers traveled in a military truck along a village road in Yala, police said. The blast wounded two villagers on a motorcycle behind the truck as well as an additional two soldiers, according to police.
“The insurgents tried to interrupt negotiations between the Thai government and other insurgent groups,” Colonel Pramote Prom-in, a military spokesman, told news agencies. “It’s likely the biggest loss for our military so far this year,” he added.
Peace talks with participating rebels which begun in April have not ended the violence – bombings, shootings, beheadings, government counterattacks – has killed more than 5,300 people since 2004 in the Narathiwat, Pattani and Yala provinces, part of a Malay Islamic sultanate until annexed by Thailand in 1909. According to conflict monitors Deep South Watch, so far this year as many as 800 attacks have killed 240 people and wounded around 460.
This week the Barisan Revolusi Nasional, one of the oldest separatist groups and a participant in the talks, proposed a ceasefire for Ramadan, which starts around July 10. In exchange the group demanded the release of all detainees in the south, the acceptance of Malaysia as a mediator, and for Thai troops to return to their bases over the month-long holiday, all of which the government rejected.
mkg/jlw (Reuters, AFP, dpa, AP)