Asia Crisis

Four killed in blast, ambush in Thai Muslim south

YALA, Thailand, June 19 (Reuters) - A Muslim man and his 3-year-old son and two Buddhist policemen were killed in two separate bomb and gun attacks in Thailand's rebellious Muslim south, police said on Thursday.

The man, believed to be an army informant, was attacked by four men with M-16 rifles while taking his family to work in a rubber plantation in Yala, one of the four southernmost provinces where 3,000 people have been killed since 2004, police said.

His wife, who was riding pillion on the same motorcycle, survived, they said.

In the nearby province of Pattani, a police colonel and his driver were killed and five other policemen were wounded on Wednesday by a roadside bomb that hit their pickup truck as they drove to inspect an outpost attacked by insurgents, police said.

Insurgents opened fire on the stricken vehicle as security forces tried to drag out their colleagues' charred bodies, police said.

Levels of violence in the predominantly Muslim region, an independent sultanate until annexed by Buddhist-majority Thailand a century ago, appear to have fallen since more troops were deployed after a new army chief took office in October.

Deep South Watch, a think-tank at a Pattani university that collates daily media reports of attacks, said deaths related to the insurgency had fallen to 19 in May from 32 in April -- and 65 in November 2007. (Reporting by Surapan Boonthanom; Writing by Nopporn Wong-Anan; Editing by Ed Cropley)