World Bulletin / News Desk
Scores of heavily armed Muslim insurgents stormed a military base, a Thailand army spokesman said Wednesday, in a major assault that left at least 16 insurgents dead.
Wednesday's death toll was the biggest since security forces stormed a mosque, known as the Krue Se mosque, in 2004, killing 32 Muslims in a raid that intensified the insurgency. Since then, more than 5,300 people have been killed in the three provinces of Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat where insurgents are seeking greater autonomy.
Acting on a tip-off, marines lit flares and opened fire as up to 60 insurgents wearing military fatigues approached the base at about 1 a.m. in Narathiwat province on the Malaysian border, said Internal Security Operations Command spokesman Pramote Phromin.
He revised the death toll to 16 from an earlier 17. None of the Thai military defenders of the base was hurt, he said.
About 94 percent of the region's 1.7 million people are Muslim, the main religion in neighbouring Malaysia and in nearby Indonesia, and about 80 percent of them speak a Malay dialect as a first language, according to a 2010 survey by the Asia Foundation.
The government is considering imposing a curfew in parts of the south, where the military already has wide-ranging powers of search and arrest under an emergency decree.
A temporary, 24-hour curfew was imposed in four sub-districts of Narathiwat and two in Pattani from 6 a.m. on Wednesday while authorities scour the area, said Pramote.
The three provinces were once part of an independent Malay Muslim sultanate until annexed by Thailand in 1909. Muslims in the area largely oppose the presence of tens of thousands of soldiers and armed Buddhist guards in the rubber-rich region.
Most believe the attacks on Thai targets are organised by the Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN) Coordinate, an offshoot of the Patani Malay National Revolutionary Front established in the 1960s to seek independence. Another group, the Patani United Liberation Front (PULO), publicly calls for a separate state.Last Mod: 13 Şubat 2013, 11:26