By Max Constant
BANGKOK (AA): One soldier was killed and three others were injured Wednesday in an early morning explosion in Thailand’s Muslim majority south.
The incident was the latest in a series of violent attacks in the insurgency-plagued region, although there has been a marked decrease in the level of violence in the last few years.
Police Lieutenant-Colonel Shinawat Wetayakorn of Yala police station told Anadolu Agency that the four were struck by a remote controlled bomb.
“The bomb was hidden on the roadside and triggered when six military officers on three motorcycles were passing by on a road in the Muang district of Yala,” he said by phone.
Yala is one of the three southernmost provinces — Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat — in the majority Buddhist country that for decades have been rocked by insurgency.
“One died on the spot and three others were injured. We consider this attack to be the work of insurgents,” Wetayakorn added.
Monday’s incident occurred after a series of violent incidents.
On Nov. 26, the murder of an eight-month pregnant woman while she was buying groceries in Pattani provoked indignation from authorities, Buddhists and Muslims alike.
“It is a strong violation of human rights and moralities of every religion,” said National Human Rights Commission member Angkhana Neelapaijit.
Around 200 people gathered at the site of the shooting Nov. 27 to denounce “uncivilized and unacceptable acts”.
The Oct. 28 killing of a 49 year-old teacher in front of an education office had also triggered strong condemnations.
Statistics on violence in the region over the last few years show a marked decrease, however.
A recent release from independent organization Deep South Watch, which is monitoring the violence, show that up to the end of October 2016, 564 violent incidents — including 227 deaths from attacks — took place.
In 2015, there were a total of 673 incidents and 246 deaths, and, in 2014, 806 incidents and 341 deaths.
The bloodiest year in the last 12 was in 2005 with 2,174 incidents and 601 deaths.
The southern insurgency — which has destabilized the three southernmost provinces of Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat for decades — is rooted in a century-old ethno-cultural conflict between Malay Muslims living in the region and the Thai central state where Buddhism is considered the de-facto national religion.
Armed insurgent groups were formed in the 1960s after the then-military dictatorship tried to interfere in Islamic schools, but the insurgency faded in the 1990s.
In 2004, a rejuvenated armed movement — composed of numerous local cells of fighters loosely grouped around the National Revolutionary Front, or BRN — emerged.
After the military seized power in May 2014, the junta continued the overthrown elected civilian government’s policy of holding peace talks with insurgent groups.
A recent report on the south by the International Crisis Group, a Brussels-based think tank, has claimed, however, that the talks have “foundered” as both sides “prefer hostilities to compromise”.
“The National Council for Peace and Order [NCPO], which seized power in the 2014 coup, professes to support dialogue to end the insurgency but avoids commitment,” the report said, referring to the ruling junta by its official name.
[Archive Photos: Bomb-in attack in Patani on 25 May 2014. Photographer: Don Pathan/AA]