Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Teacher killed by alleged insurgents in Thai south

uspected Muslim insurgents fatally shot a Buddh ist teacher Tuesday in southern Thailand, where violence has continued since a massacre at a mosque last week, police said.

The 55-year-old teacher was riding a motorcycle to her school in Yala province when at least two assailants killed her in a drive-by shooting, said police Col. Poompetch Pipatpetchpoom.

An Muslim separatist insurgency in Thailand's three southernmost provinces of Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat has led to the deaths of more than 3,400 people, both Buddhist and Muslim, since early 2004.

Violence has spiked since the killing of 10 Muslims at a mosque in Narathiwat on June 8.

Authorities suspended classes at the school after Tuesday's shooting, Poompetch said.

“The school will remain closed until we can be sure we can provide security for teachers and students,” he said.

Public school teachers in the three provinces are viewed as symbols of government authority and are regularly attacked. At least 90 have been killed in the five-year-old insurgency.

Teachers and Buddhist monks are frequently escorted by soldiers or police. The escorts have themselves become frequent targets of the insurgents. A massive counterinsurgency effort had slowed the pace of attacks in recent months but violence has occurred daily since the attack at the mosque last week.

On Monday, a beheaded and charred body of a Buddhist rubber plantation worker was found in Yala province. His head was found nearby along with his severed limbs.

Thai authorities said the mosque attack was meant to inflame tensions between the Muslim and Buddhist communities. Some local Muslims said the attack was masterminded by Thai authorities, a charge the government and military have denied.

Security forces often blame the insurgents for attacks on Muslim individuals and institutions, saying they are attempting to incite hatred to boost their cause and trigger sectarian strife.
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