Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra has ordered a probe into the brazen shooting of a Muslim teacher in the deep South, as security authorities defended their approach to guarding schools.
The lunchtime shooting of Chonlathee Charoenchol, 51, a teacher at Ban Tanyong School in Narathiwat's Bacho district, on Wednesday shocked the government and security authorities for its cold-blooded nature.
As Democrats rounded on the government for "lacking sincerity" in its attempts to quell the southern violence, the Internal Security Operations Command (Isoc) said the school where the teacher was shot was not regarded as a risk spot for insurgent attacks.
Police yesterday issued a list of four suspects for the shooting, as 20 schools in the Narathiwat Educational Zone 1 area stayed shut for a second day after teachers voiced security concerns.
Chonlathee was shot at lunchtime in front of 292 students and 15 other teachers in the school's canteen.
Ms Yingluck said she had asked for a probe to discover the motive for the killing, as the gunman reportedly spoke to the teacher before shooting him.
Four men arrived on two motorcycles and made for the canteen. One gunman approached Chonlathee and fired a 9mm handgun twice, hitting him in the head.
He then drove away in Chonlathee's bronze Nissan car.
Col Pramote Promin, spokesman for the 4th Region Forward Command of the Isoc, said he regretted the teacher's death.
Isoc security measures at schools are based on the level of risk, he said.
Schools thought not to be at risk from the insurgency are guarded by village defence teams.
Ban Tanyong School, where Chonlathee was shot dead, was guarded by such a team, he said. In the past, insurgents had targetted Buddhist teachers.
Defence Minister ACM Sukumpol Suwanatat condemned the attack and urged residents to help authorities tackle the unrest.
The victim was a Muslim and the attack took place at an Islamic school, he said.
ACM Sukumpol said changing security measures for teachers would be premature. He said security forces have tried their best to protect southern teachers. However, the shooting happened at a school which was not under the care of the military.
The four men named by police as suspects for the killing were identified as Isma-ael, Arhama, Sorkumin and Marorsor. Mr Isma-ael is believed to be the one who shot the teacher, Deputy Narathiwat police chief Kritsada Kaewjandee said.
The gun used in the killing belonged to Pol Sgt Arzeesal Hemna, who was attached to Khok Khian police station in Narathiwat before being gunned down last year, he said.
Three southern Democrat MPs yesterday accused the government of lacking sincerity in tackling the southern unrest following the teacher's murder.
Surachet Wae-arsae, an MP for Narathiwat, and Yala MPs Prasert Pongsuwansiri and Narong Duding urged the government to do more to address the violence.
More than 20 schools in Narathiwat province have suspended classes for two days following the Chonlathee killing. Classes will resume on Monday.
Meanwhile, the Education Ministry will propose measures to a government committee on southern development to help teachers working in the deep South, Pluangphet Chunla-ied, an assistant to the education minister, said yesterday.
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Writer: Waedao Harai, Wassana Nanuam & Pradit Ruangdit