Bangkok:Eight soldiers were killed by a roadside bomb in Thailand’s restive south early Saturday morning, an army spokesman said, raising questions over the durability of a fragile peace process aiming to end the near-decade long insurgency.
More than 5,700 people have been killed in a festering insurgency in Thailand’s Muslim-majority southern provinces, but optimism for peace has flickered recently after talks between authorities and some rebel groups including the Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN).
The bomb, among the most deadly single attacks by rebels on Thai security forces in recent years, ripped through a military truck transporting the soldiers after a night on duty at a base in Krongpinang district of Yala province.
“It was a very powerful bomb that completely destroyed the truck,” spokesman Colonel Pramote Promin told AFP by phone.
“Ten soldiers were in the truck. Eight died and two were wounded,” he said, adding that two villagers had also been injured in the blast.
“It’s likely the biggest loss for our military so far this year.”
Local media reports said the bomb weighed more than 50 kilograms, backing up the view of experts who say the rebels are becoming increasingly sophisticated in the bomb attacks.
Near-daily assaults on security forces and civilians have continued despite a successful round of talks on June 14 which saw both sides agree to work towards curbing violence over Ramadan.
But prospects for a significant reduction in violence appeared to receive a blow last week after the BRN called for the army to return to their bases over Ramadan in exchange for a ceasefire during the holy month, a condition swiftly rejected by the kingdom’s government.