SOUTHERN UNREST: Attackers hit train station, killing one
Published on January 30, 2006 - Police claim at least 20 armed men involved; teacher survives Yala shooting
About 20 gunmen armed with Ak-47 and M-16 automatic rifles charged a train station in Rusoh district, killing one security officer on duty and injuring one in what appeared to be the latest attack in the three southernmost provinces.
Pol Sgt Charoonsak Wangdee, 45, was shot in the head and face and died at the scene while army Private Weerasak Sae-lim, 22, suffered a gunshot to his stomach and was being treated at the Yala Hospital.
The attack came as a passenger train was arriving on the scene. The firefight, which lasted about 10 minutes, had scores of bystanders running for cover in all directions, according to Police Lieutenant Phiboon Thanitthakul, the officer on duty at the Rusoh district station.
He said at least 20 gunmen in two pickup trucks arrived near the crime scene and began to charge at the station where the two security officers had been assigned to maintain law and order amid a growing spate of clashes between insurgents and security forces.
Separately, an Islamic religious teacher survived an attack on his life in Yala's Tambon Thanao Puteh when a gunman riding pillion on a motorbike fired one shot at him. Hama-thayeedin Kalathe, 38, was rushed to a hospital by local residents, police said.
The incident took place as Education Minister Chaturon Chaisang visited the deep South to give moral support to teachers, a common target of the ongoing violence in the region, and to hand out financial assistance to the families of victims.
Chaturon reached out to both the Muslim community, who form the majority in the three southernmost provinces, and local Buddhists. He stopped at a teashop in front of the office of the Islamic Committee of Pattani where he chatted with local officials and the committee's chairman, Waeduramae Mahmingji.
He gave out financial assistance to 55 families, both Buddhist and Muslim, who lost family members to the violence. According to government figures, more than Bt500 million has been spent on such assistance so far, with yesterday's handouts taking the number of cases in which the government has given help to 545, out of a total of 632 cases.
However, many Buddhists are angry because they suspect that some of the recipients are families of insurgents, while Muslim locals suspect that much of the violence is by security forces.
Chaturon said thousands of children in Yala, Narathiwat and Pattani had been orphaned by the violence and that he had instructed officials to come up with a more concrete policy to assist them.
In Bangkok meanwhile, Interior Minister Kongsak Wantana dismissed reports that some of the 300-plus weapons stolen from an Army camp in Narathiwat on January 4, 2004, are being used against security forces in the deep South.
He said the claims were baseless and that there was no evidence to suggest that the stolen weapons were being used against soldiers and police in the region.
However, he did not say how the insurgents had obtained the guns used in ambushes of patrolling soldiers or point-blank assassinations of government officials and informants.