"Shooting in Thailand's south kills four despite safety zone deal"
BANGKOK/NARATHIWAT: Insurgents in one of Thailand's mostly Muslim southern provinces shot and killed four people, including a child, and wounded another two children on Thursday, police said, days after a deal was reached with the Thai government to establish a safety zone.
A decades-old separatist insurgency in the Muslim-majority southern provinces of Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat has claimed more than 6,500 lives since it escalated in 2004, according to independent monitoring group Deep South Watch.
Shots were fired into a pick-up truck in Rueso village in Narathiwat early on Thursday, said Rueso police chief Colonel Ruangsak Buadang. The truck was being driven by an aide to the village chief who, along with his wife and sister-in-law, was taking their 8-year-old son and two other children to school.
"An unknown number of insurgents fired shots into the truck, killing all four and injuring two other children," Ruangsak told Reuters.
The attack followed a deal struck earlier this week between the government and MARA Patani, a long-standing umbrella group that claims to speak for the insurgents. The talks were held in neighbouring Malaysia.
MARA Patani said in a statement on Tuesday the Joint Working Group-Peace Dialogue Process had approved and adopted a general framework for a "safety zone" to cover five districts in the three southern provinces where fighting will be off-limits.
The government has said the safety-zone deal was the most progress made in more than two years of negotiation. Talks between the government and the insurgents began in 2013 under then Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra but stalled after the military overthrew her government in 2014.
Colonel Yuthanam Phetmuang, a spokesman for the military's Internal Security Operations Command, condemned the attack.
"This is a barbaric action," Yuthanam said.