At least four people, including a child, were killed in a shooting incident in one of Thailand's Muslim-majority southern provinces on Thursday (2 March). The attack came after an agreement was recently reached between the government and insurgents on developing safety zones in the region.
Colonel Yuthanam Phetmuang, a spokesman for the military's Internal Security Operations Command, termed the attack "barbaric" in which two other children were reported injured.
Colonel Ruangsak Buadang, the police chief of Rueso village in Narathiwat province where the incident took place, said a group of insurgents attacked a pick-up truck early on Thursday. The village chief was reportedly travelling in the truck along with his wife, children and sister-in-law.
"An unknown number of insurgents fired shots into the truck, killing all four and injuring two other children," Ruangsak told Reuters, noting that the village chief was taking the children to school when they were attacked.
Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat are the three Muslim-majority provinces in southern Thailand which have been infested by insurgents for over a decade. Citing data from independent monitoring group Deep South Watch, Reuters wrote that more than 6,500 people have lost their lives in clashes provoked by the separatists since 2004.
However, the latest attack came days after the Thai government struck a deal with MARA Patani, a long-standing umbrella group that claims to represent the insurgents. The deal was reached following negotiations held in neighbouring Malaysia.
MARA Patani confirmed the deal in a statement on Tuesday (28 February) noting that the "safety zone" will cover five districts in the three southern provinces where fighting will be off-limits.
Talks between the government and the insurgents started in 2013 under then prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra, but the leadership change in 2014 stalled the negotiations.