May 24, 2014 / 2:48 PM / in 5 years

Suspected Muslim rebels launch south Thailand attacks, three dead

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Suspected Muslim separatists in southern Thailand launched a string of gun and bomb attacks on Saturday killing three people and wounding more than 50, government officials said.

The three southern most provinces of predominantly Buddhist Thailand are majority Muslim and have been plagued by resistance to central government rule for decades.

The bombs exploded outside five convenience stores, two petrol stations and a hotel, officials in the region said. A bomb went off at an electricity station, cutting power in one district for up to 40 minutes, they said.

Gunmen also opened fire on a navy ship a short distance off shore, the officials said.

The attacks came two days after the Thai army overthrew the central government in a coup but the Muslim separatists’ campaign is not directly linked to a power struggle in Bangkok that precipitated the coup.

More than 5,700 people have been killed in the south since January 2004 when the separatists stepped up their campaign. More than 40 have been killed this year.

The main demands of various shadowy rebel factions behind the violence is greater autonomy for their poor, long-neglected region on the border with Muslim-majority Malaysia.

Peace talks with some of the rebels began last year but have stalled, largely because authorities in Bangkok have been preoccupied with the political crisis there.

Writing by Robert Birsel; Editing by Sophie Hares

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