A three-year-old boy was among six people shot dead when gunmen opened fire on a village grocery shop in Thailand’s restive south, a Thai security official said on Thursday, vowing tentative peace talks would continue.
Four men dressed in similar uniforms to the Thai security forces sprayed bullets at a group of villagers gathered outside a local shop in Pattani province on Wednesday evening, said National Security Council chief Paradorn Pattanatabut.
“I deplore this act of brutality against civilians including children,” he said, adding one person had also been wounded in the attack.
He said the group responsible for Wednesday’s attack did not identify itself, but left a note saying the shooting was in revenge for the deaths of some of its members.
More than 5,500 people have been killed in near-daily bombings and shootings in three Muslim-majority provinces near Thailand’s southern border with Malaysia since 2004.
Buddhist and Muslims alike fall victim to the shadowy militants, who target security forces, civilians and perceived representatives of state authority such as teachers.
Thailand held its first official peace talks with representatives of the Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN) in Malaysia in March and another round in April, but deadly attacks have continued.
Paradorn, who is Thailand’s chief negotiator with the rebels, said meetings would go on, with more talks scheduled for June 13.
Leaflets apparently from a group linked to the BRN were also circulated in mosques, markets and tea shops in neighbouring Yala province early on Thursday pledging to continue murderous assaults on civilian targets.
“Six dead bodies in Pattani is a lesson for Thais to remember that we will kill everyone, including women and children. We will fight for our great BRN movement and force Thais to accept our demands,” said the leaflet.
Rebels involved in the talks on Sunday said they wanted “liberation” from Thailand.