The slaying yesterday of a Buddhist monk and three others including a nine-year-old boy in southern Pattani was in retaliation for the murder of three Muslim brothers of the Manan clan in Narathiwat 10 days ago, experts said.
The insurgent attack took place only a day before Makha Bucha Day and the Buddhist monk was going on his morning alms round in Mae Lan district when he was shot at. The motive was likely to send a strong message to deepen the division between Buddhists and Muslims in the deep South, where the vast majority of people are Muslim.
Earlier, a soldier and a bank staff worker, both women, were brutally killed in Pattani, and similar leaflets were found saying the attacks were in revenge for the deaths of the three Manan brothers. A note left at bothscenes warned: "To the Army chief: This is not the last body for the three brothers."
Speculation circulating in the region had the three boys - aged three, five and nine - gunned down by state officials in front of their home after returning from evening prayers at a mosque.
The military rejected the rumours, saying it regretted the deaths of the three brothers.
Yesterday was the anniversary of the death of Marosoh Chantravadi, a leader of an insurgent cell in the area, who was killed along with 15 other men in Narathiwat's Bacho district.
Marosoh was regarded as a local hero among teenagers frustrated with Bangkok's treatment of Muslim Malayu in the deep South.
The attack on a monk and Buddhists laymen might evoke |anger from the rest of the |population in predominantly Buddhist Thailand, but for local residents it justified the operation against the state authority of Thailand.
The story of Marosoh portrays him as a hero who suffered from a military crackdown on a protest in Narathiwat's Tak Bai district in October 2004 when 85 Muslims died of suffocation as they were piled up in military trucks. He later took up arms against authorities and was killed in an attack on a marine outpost in Narathiwat a year ago.
His story repeated a local narrative against Thailand's national history, which overlooked Muslim Malayu identity and historical pain after the annexation of Patani into Siam a century ago.
History has seen waves of separatist uprisings from time to time.
The current one emerged in late 2003 and the fighting has claimed more than 5,000 lives while authorities in Bangkok remain helpless in coming up with a viable strategy to contain the violence and restore peace in the region. Negotiations for a truce remain in limbo.