Five people have been killed and four others wounded in a killing spree by a group of gunmen in a small village in Pattani’s Panare district.
The attack occurred at about 6am yesterday in Ban Yai on the Tha Kham-Nam Bo road near the entrance of Wat Hingsaram in tambon Khok Krabue.
Panare police chief Wallop Chamnong-asa said the gunmen struck shortly after the village protection unit ended its overnight security and its members returned home.
About 50 villagers were on the road – some heading to the temple to make merit, some buying food from vendors as government officials headed to their offices and students were on their way to school – when a white pickup truck carrying six armed men pulled up.
Two men leapt from the vehicle and opened fire indiscriminately at people along the road. Others fired their weapons from inside the truck.
As the villagers fled in terror, three fell dead and four others were wounded.
The gunmen took off in the vehicle. While passing the office of the tambon administration organisation (TAO), they opened fire again at anyone on the road, killing two more.
The dead were identified as Pongsak Phet, 53, an education inspector with Pattani’s Education Zone 1; Nipon Sermklin, 61, a retired irrigation official; Pikul Sennu, 43, a village health volunteer; Noom Boonmak, 76; and Laddawan Yodkaew, 60.
The wounded are Purikorn Kor, 12, a pupil at Panare School; Sompien Ratsrichan, 54, a teacher at Ban Tha Kham School; Sim Tantapong, 79, mother of the TAO president; and Pongsak Yodkaew, 60.
Purikorn and Mr Pongsak were admitted to Pattani Hospital for treatment for serious wounds. Others were admitted to Panare Hospital.
Deputy permanent secretary for the interior Phanu Uthairat announced on local radio that a 50,000 baht reward was being offered to anyone with information that led to the arrest of the gunmen.
The spokesman of the southern outpost of the Internal Security Operations Command, Col Banpote Poolpian, said security officers had done their best but the community was remote.
He said the attackers were targeting innocent people after the authorities stepped up pressure on them.
Fourth Army commander Udomchai Thammasarorat said the attackers tried to retaliate against security authorities who were wooing the support of local people.
The attack was aimed at creating a conflict between Buddhists and Muslims.
Local grocer Thad Sukprasert agreed, saying the Buddhists and Muslims in the area got along well together but the attackers seemed bent on creating disunity.
Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said he would ask the 4th Army commander to step up security. His government was promoting economic development in the southernmost provinces by offering promotional privileges to investment projects in the region, and this work needed to be protected.
Pol Col Wallop of Panare police station said last night police had made sketches of the suspects and had identified the group. They are gathering evidence to seek warrants for their arrest.
A man was also killed in Yarang district of Pattani yesterday morning.
Pol Col Viroj Boonyarat, the Yarang police chief, said Abdulloh Kabo, 49, a villager from Ban Kadai, was hit on the head by an attacker and then had his throat slashed by a knife while he was returning home on a motorcycle from rubber tapping.
Seven telephone booths were set on fire and car tyres were set alight at three locations in Muang district of Pattani on Wednesday night, apparently to heighten tensions.
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