Four villagers were killed and four others injured when gunmen attacked a pickup truck in Pattani's Nong Chik district on Sunday night.
(Photos by Abdulloh Benjakat)
Pol Col Chonvee Chamarerk, the Nong Chik police chief, said the attack on the pickup happened about 10pm after an M79 grenade was fired at the operational base of a ranger unit at Ban Nam Kham in tambon Pulo Puyo in Nong Chik.
The M79 grenade explosion slightly injured a ranger.
The rangers at the base contacted patrol units to set up checkpoints on Highway 418 (Yala-Pattani) to check vehicles passing along the road.
At Ban Kayi, about 2km from the base, an Isuzu pickup which was spotted travelling against the traffic flow was attacked by an unidentified group of armed men and an exchange of fire followed.
Four people in the pick-up truck were killed and four others wounded. The dead were identified as Ropa Buraheng, 18, Isman Dueramae, 55, Saha Samae, 65, and Ahama Saning, all from Ban Tanyong Pule in tambon Pule Puyo. The wounded, from the same village, were admitted to Nong Chik hospital.
Nong Chik district chief Luechai Charoensap and Pol Col Chonvee led a team of police and defence volunteers to examine the scene. They found 26 spent AK47 shells and 30 spent M16 shells on the road.
An AK47 rifle was found in the pickup.
Ya Dueramae, the driver of the pickup, told police he was taking nine passengers from Ban Tanyong Pule to the funeral of a former village chief, who died of old age, at Ban Thungpho in tambon Lipa Sango.
At Ban Kayi, they saw a number of defence volunteers. At that moment the pickup came under attack from many directions, killing and wounding the villagers. The vehicle was riddled with bullet holes.
Mr Luechai, the district chief, said he had ordered district officials to arrange a funeral for the victims and promised relatives that the police would investigate the incident and ensure them justice.
Former defence minister Yutthasak rejected the involvement of military rangers in the shooting.
He said initial investigations did not support the claim they were innocent villagers.
He said that according to a report he received a pickup truck and a motorcycle were involved in the attack on the ranger base.
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