But now Thai security officials are worried that the militants are opening up a new front in their guerrilla war by targeting outsiders entering the three provinces.
Early Tuesday, masked men with handguns and assault rifles attacked seven fruit traders from central Thailand while the merchants were sleeping in their rented shack in Yala province. Four of the traders, Thavorn Suwanchote, Thassana Thumporn, Suthat Somroob and another unidentified man, died, according to authorities.
A few days earlier, on Feb. 1, two agricultural specialists who had traveled to the area to help improve rice farming methods were shot dead, too.
Regional army commander Lt. Gen. Udomchai Thamsarorat told reporters Tuesday that the insurgents were going after soft targets. “They want to intimidate outsiders, to scare them off coming here to trade,” he said.
BP: Insurgents have previously gone on after specific targets – such as Buddhists (see here, here, and here) and teachers (see here, here, and here). This is not the first time that insurgents have attacked traders. They attacked Fridays trading last year.* They have attacked shopping malls in Hat Yai which has lead to injuries and deaths for tourists. The insurgents can seemingly pick soft targets at will…