YAHA, (Thailand) Sept 30 (AFP): Two Chinese carpet traders and a police officer were shot dead Friday in separate attacks in restive southern Thailand blamed on suspected Muslim militants, a security source said.
The mainland Chinese, Fang Kuating Saewang, and his friend Yi Sung Saefang, were shot in the head with pistols in Rangae district of Narathiwat province by unknown attackers, the security source said.
The source said the men died instantly after the attack while travelling in Bo-ngo village to sell small carpets Muslims use for their daily prayers.
Earlier on Friday, Lance Corporal Srattha Thongdeang, 21, was shot dead in an ambush after militants triggered a roadside bomb in Yaha district of Yala province, a police officer said.
Four others, who were also part of a team riding motorcycles to offer protection for school teachers, were injured and taken to hospital.
The officers crashed their motorcycles after the bomb exploded. Suspected militants then shot them with assault rifles, the police officer said.
A combined force of about 200 police and military officers had sealed off nearby roads to hunt for the attackers, the police officer said.
Deputy prime minister and Justice Minister Chidchai Vanasathidya said Friday while touring Narathiwat he would issue a paper in three languages including the region's Yawi dialect, Thai and English about the militants' role in the unrest.
The paper would also report on the September 21 killing of two Thai marines in Narathiwat's Tanyong Limo village by suspected militants. The marines were investigating the shooting deaths of two men at a village tea shop.
"I want to explain and make the public understand what is really happening in the south," Chidchai told reporters.
"The white paper will be published as soon as possible."
At least 960 people have been killed since unrest broke out in January 2004 in the mainly Muslim provinces along Thailand's border with Malaysia. Authorities and experts blame the violence on a complex web of Islamic separatists, local corruption and organized crime.
While Thailand is mainly Buddhist, most of the population in the southern provinces are ethnic Malay, who feel a close affinity to Malays in Malaysia and believe they are discriminated against by Bangkok because they are Muslim.