Three police killed in latest Thai south violence

Three police killed in latest Thai south violence

Narathiwat, Thailand - Three police officers were killed and six others wounded during an ambush in Thailand's insurgency-plagued deep south, witnesses said Tuesday.

Shootings and explosions are a near daily occurrence in Thailand's three southernmost provinces where more than 6,500 people - the majority civilians - have died since an Islamist rebellion against Thai rule re-ignited in 2004.

After months of relative calm that saw violence dip to a record low last year, there has been a palpable increase in attacks over the past few weeks.

The latest ambush occurred in Ra-Ngae district, Narathiwat province, with insurgents setting off a bomb as a police convoy passed by.

"Three police were killed and six police were injured from bomb fragments," local investigator Police Captain Apichart Dolor told AFP.

"Among the injured ones, four are seriously wounded", he added.

An AFP photographer on the scene saw a white truck riddled with shrapnel smashed into a tree with the bodies of three policemen still inside.

The insurgents are seeking greater autonomy from majority-Buddhist Thailand, which annexed the culturally distinct region more than a century ago.

The rebels employ brutal tactics including shootings, beheadings and bombings, often targeting perceived civilian collaborators such as teachers and Buddhist monks.

Earlier this month insurgents briefly seized a hospital and used it to launch an attack on nearby troops during a night of multiple coordinated assaults.

The move sparked condemnation from the UN and a vow by Thailand's junta to ramp up security in the region.

The Thai military also stands accused of routinely abusing human rights including torture and extra-judicial killings. The junta's vow to hold peace talks has borne little fruit.

Rights groups say peace is unlikely while a tight security net remains over the region.

Critics also cast doubt on the army's sincerity and the ability of their rebel interlocutors to control the revolt's foot soldiers.

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