March 26, 2015 / 4:53 AM / 3 years ago

Four suspected rebels dead after military raid in Thai south

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Thai police killed four suspected Muslim separatists after raiding the hideout of an insurgent group operating in Thailand’s restive south, police said on Thursday.

Thai security personnel inspect the site of a firefight between security forces and suspected insurgents in Pattani province, south of Bangkok March 26, 2015. REUTERS/Surapan Boonthanom

Thailand is predominantly Buddhist but parts of the south are majority Muslim. A low-level insurgency in the region has claimed more than 6,000 lives since January 2004 when resistance to Buddhist rule resurfaced violently.

In the latest violence, police said they tracked down through telephone signals the location of members of the Runda Kumpulan Kecil (RKK) group, a Muslim insurgent group that operates in the Thai south, Police Lieutenant Somphon Piendee, told Reuters.

The suspected rebels opened fire when police arrived at the scene, said Somphon. Authorities fired back killing four members of the group.

Somphon said a further 22 members of the group were caught and are being held in police custody. Four others escaped.

Thailand’s military government said last year that peace in the Muslim-dominated south was an urgent national priority but despite that pledge talks aimed at ending the insurgency have stalled.

Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, who seized power in a bloodless coup in May, promised peace within a year.

His government has yet to revive talks with Muslim separatist groups.

Reporting by Surapan Boonthanom and Kaweewit Kaewjinda; Editing by Amy Sawitta Lefevre

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