Five Thai security personnel have been killed in a fresh spate of gun and bomb attacks which the government on Tuesday blamed on insurgents seeking to disrupt a fragile peace process.
Despite two rounds of peace talks since March, near-daily bloodshed in the Muslim-dominated deep south near the border with Malaysia has raised questions over how much control rebel leaders hold over radical militants.
Two paramilitary rangers on patrol were shot dead in an ambush on Tuesday morning in Pattani province, police said in a statement.
A day earlier, a border patrol police officer was killed and three others wounded by a roadside bomb in the same province, while two security guards died in a separate bomb blast at a school.
A nine-year-old insurgency has claimed more than 5,500 lives in the region, where many local people complain of a long history of discrimination by Thai authorities in the Buddhist-majority nation.
Security personnel and those connected with the government are regularly targeted in the attacks, as well as Muslims perceived to be collabourating with the authorities.
Thailand held its first official talks with representatives of one of the main rebel groups, the Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN), in Malaysia in March, followed by a second round in April. The next meeting is set for June 13.
Thai National Security Council chief Paradorn Pattanatabut, the top Thai negotiator, said the latest attacks were the work of radical insurgents opposed to the peace moves.
“It’s because they don’t want the peace dialogue to continue,” he told reporters.
While the exact aims of the rebels are unclear, a BRN representative said in a video statement in April that they wanted “liberation” from the kingdom.