December 19, 2009 / 10:19 AM / 9 years ago

Suspected insurgents kill 3 Buddhists in Thai south

A Thai soldier takes a photo as police officers inspect the site of a bomb attack in Narathiwat province, about 1,149 km (714 miles) south of Bangkok, December 19, 2009. REUTERS/Surapan Boonthanom

NARATHIWAT, Thailand (Reuters) - Suspected Muslim insurgents blew up a gas tank near a school in southern Thailand on Saturday, killing three Buddhist villagers and wounding two including a local leader, police said.

The blast appeared intended for a senior official of Bajao district in Narathiwat, one of Thailand’s three southernmost provinces plagued by insurgent violence as ethnic Malay Muslims fight for autonomy from Thailand’s Buddhist majority.

“The bomb was planted near a school. The insurgents detonated it to attack the officials,” police Colonel Jamlong Ngamnetara told Reuters.

The three people killed had volunteered to provide security for the official as he traveled in a pickup truck, he said.

More than 3,700 people have been killed in five years of unrest in the region bordering Malaysia, only a few hours by car from some of Thailand’s most famous tourist beaches.

The troubled rubber-rich provinces — Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat — were part of a Muslim sultanate until annexed a century ago by predominantly Buddhist Thailand. About 80 percent of the region is Muslim and its people speak a Malay dialect.

The violence has ranged from drive-by shootings to bombings and beheadings. It often targets Buddhists and Muslims associated with the Thai state, such as police, soldiers, government officials and teachers.

Reporting by Surapan Boonthanom; Writing by Viparat Jantraprap; Editing by Jason Szep

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