Seven soldiers killed in southern Thailand ambush

Friday, June 15, 2007

A roadside bombing and ambush attack today in southern Thailand killed seven Royal Thai Army soldiers and left one injured.

Blamed on Muslim insurgents, the attack in Bannang Sata district, Yala, was similar to one on May 31, in which 12 soldiers were killed in one of the deadliest days of the south Thailand insurgency.

Today's attackers took M16 rifles belonging to the dead soldiers. As they retreated, they laid spikes on the roads to stall any pursuers. A helicopter was dispatched to airlift the victims.

The soldiers were part of a unit assigned to protect public school teachers, who are frequent targets of attack. Earlier in the week, four teachers were killed by gunmen and 13 schools burned in arson attacks.

Human Rights Watch issued a report today, saying it believed those responsible for the attacks are separatists.

"Insurgents are terrorizing teachers and schools, which they consider symbols of the Thai state," Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement, quoted in the Bangkok Post. "These attacks are grave crimes and cannot be justified by any cause."

In another attack overnight, three local Muslim leaders were killed and a fourth man in an ambush and shooting attack on their car in Mai Kaen district, Pattani.