Asia Crisis

Buddhist monk killed in south Thai violence

YALA, Thailand, June 12 (Reuters) - A Buddhist monk was killed and another seriously injured when they were gunned down while collecting alms as more violence erupted in Thailand's restive south, police said on Friday.

The attack was the latest in a recent flare-up of bloody violence in the Muslim-majority region near the Malaysian border, where nearly 3,500 people have been killed in five years of unrest.

Police said suspected separatist insurgents dressed in exercise clothes rode past on motorcycles and fired automatic weapons at the monks as they collected food donations in an urban area of Yala province.

Thailand's south has been hit by its deadliest week of violence this year, with 24 people killed and more than 40 injured in the last seven days, which included the fatal shooting of 10 Muslims praying in a mosque.[ID:nL81020018]

Monday's attack raised tensions between Muslims and the region's minority Buddhists and villagers have accused the military of involvement, saying no Muslim was capable of such an act.

The army rejected the claims and blamed insurgents for the attack. The Organization of the Islamic Conference has urged Bangkok to probe what it said was the latest aggressive act on southern Muslims by "armed and organised elements". [ID:nBKK463005]

Mystery surrounds who is behind the violence in Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat, which was part of an independent Malay Muslim sultanate until annexed by Buddhist Thailand a century ago.

No credible group has stated its aims or claimed responsibility for the gun, bomb and arson attacks, which the 30,000 troops stationed in the region have failed to prevent. (Reporting by Surapan Boonthanom; Writing by Martin Petty; Editing by Valerie Lee)