Tuesday, February 20, 2018
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Two killed in bomb blast in Thailand's restive south

Thailand's southernmost provinces have seen a long-running separatist insurgency in the Muslim-dominated region.

Two insurgents were killed in Thailand's violence-plagued south after a bomb they were transporting prematurely exploded, the military said on Thursday.

Their deaths came during a night of violence across 11 districts in three of Thailand's southern-most provinces near the border with Malaysia. More than a dozen grenade and bomb attacks also wounded eight civilians and officials. 

No group claimed responsibility for the attacks, which targeted police stations and checkpoints. 

"This is the work of people who want to cause chaos. It looks like their intention wasn't to kill but rather to cause disorder," Colonel Yutthanam Petchmuang told Reuters news agency.

Military spokesman Pramote Prom-in identified the dead as "insurgent operation leaders".

Thailand is mostly Buddhist but parts of the south are majority Muslim. The region has been plagued by a long-running separatist insurgency as ethnic Malay rebels battle Thai troops for more autonomy from the Buddhist-majority state.

Bombings and drive-by shootings are common in Thailand's south, where more than 6,800 people, mostly civilians, have been killed since 2004.

The country's southernmost border provinces, former Muslim sultanates, were annexed by Bangkok more than a century ago.

The military, which seized power in a 2014 coup, has held several rounds of negotiations with one group that claims to represent the insurgents, the Mara Patani.

But the talks have failed to make headway and many doubt the rebel negotiators have clout over fighters on the ground.

The biggest faction spearheading the insurgency, the Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN), issued a rare statement earlier this month restating its opposition to the current Thai army-led peace talks.

The military refuses to talk to the BRN even though most analysts say Mara Patani has little sway over those doing the actual fighting.

BRN has said it will only come to the table if a third-party mediates the talks and international observers are allowed, demands Thailand's military has repeatedly refused to accept.

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