Skip to main content

Thai forces thwart attack on military base, killing 16 insurgents

By Kocha Olarn, CNN
February 14, 2013 -- Updated 0052 GMT (0852 HKT)
Policemen inspect a bomb site in the southern province of Narathiwat on Sunday, part of a recent wave of separatist violence.
Policemen inspect a bomb site in the southern province of Narathiwat on Sunday, part of a recent wave of separatist violence.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: The Thai military says 16 insurgents were killed, one fewer than previously stated
  • The heavily armed militants attacked under cover of darkness, military officials say
  • But the Thai navy personnel in the base were ready after receiving a tip, the officials say
  • Muslim separatists in southern Thailand have been fighting government forces for years

Bangkok, Thailand (CNN) -- Sixteen insurgents were killed during a fierce battle after they attacked a military base in a restive area of southern Thailand early Wednesday, authorities said.

Thai military officials said 50 to 60 heavily armed attackers tried to storm the navy base in the province of Narathiwat under cover of darkness, but navy personnel had been forewarned and fought the insurgents off in an intense, hour-long firefight.

It appeared to be the latest flare-up in a worsening conflict between government forces and Muslim separatists in southern Thailand in which more than 5,000 people are believed to have been killed since 2004.

Although Thailand's population is overwhelmingly Buddhist, Muslims make up a large percentage of the population in the country's three southernmost provinces, near the border with Malaysia.

Parts of those provinces have been under an emergency security decree for years, but analysts say the Thai military is struggling to deal with the militants.

"Insurgents have withstood and adapted to the military's tactics, growing more proficient and daring in the process," the International Crisis Group, a nonprofit organization that provides analysis and advocacy on conflicts around the world, said in December.

Meanwhile, successive Thai governments "have opted to muddle through South East Asia's most violent internal conflict," the group said in a report on the conflict, citing "bureaucratic turf battles and a bitter national-level political struggle."

Well-armed attackers

The insurgents who carried out the attack Wednesday were armed with military-grade weapons, including laser-guided rifles and hand grenades, said Col. Pramote Promin, a spokesman for the Thai military.

Some of the roughly 100 Thai navy personnel on the base were wounded in the fighting, he said, but none were killed. The military had received a tip about the attack and was "on full alert" when it happened, he added.

The military is now trying to track down wounded insurgents who fled from the clash, Pramote said after visiting the area.

He said that after a count at the base, the number of insurgents killed stood at 16, one fewer than the initial total he gave earlier Wednesday.

There was no word Wednesday from the elusive Muslim separatists, who don't usually claim responsibility for attacks they carry out.

Unrest linked to arrest

On Sunday, a roadside bomb in Yala province, which is next to Narathiwat, killed five Thai soldiers, authorities said.

Lt. Gen. Dithaporn Sasasmit, a spokesman for the Thai internal security operations command, said recently that the latest insurgent violence is related to the arrest of one of the separatist leaders in January.

"Every time when authorities can arrest or conduct raid operations to prevent possible attacks, they would try to show off and create some situations," Sasasmit said.

Human Rights Watch last year said that in 2011, insurgent groups targeted teachers they saw as symbols of state efforts to undermine Malay Muslim identity. The group said that Thai security forces have faced few consequences for abuses against Muslims.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
October 24, 2014 -- Updated 0242 GMT (1042 HKT)
Successful launch of lunar orbiter, seen as a precursor for a planned mission to the surface of the moon, marks significant advance for the country's space program.
October 23, 2014 -- Updated 1915 GMT (0315 HKT)
Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, shot while standing guard at Ottawa's National War Memorial, was known for his easygoing manner and smile.
October 22, 2014 -- Updated 2006 GMT (0406 HKT)
Non-stop chatter about actress' appearance is nasty, cruel, hurtful, invasive and sexist.
October 23, 2014 -- Updated 2208 GMT (0608 HKT)
CEO's 30-min Putonghua chat is the perfect charm offensive for Facebook's last untapped market.
October 24, 2014 -- Updated 0345 GMT (1145 HKT)
Chinese leaders want less odd architecture built in the country.
October 22, 2014 -- Updated 2058 GMT (0458 HKT)
Air New Zealand's new 'Hobbit' safety video stars Peter Jackson, Elijah Wood, elves and orcs.
October 23, 2014 -- Updated 1414 GMT (2214 HKT)
A 15-year-old pregnant girl is rescued from slavery, only to be charged with having sex outside of marriage, shocked rights activists say -- a charge potentially punishable by death.
October 22, 2014 -- Updated 0333 GMT (1133 HKT)
After sushi and ramen, beef is on the list of must-eats for many visitors to Japan.
October 20, 2014 -- Updated 1607 GMT (0007 HKT)
Airports judged on comfort, conveniences, cleanliness and customer service.
October 22, 2014 -- Updated 1748 GMT (0148 HKT)
Scientists use CT scans to recreate a life-size image of the ancient king.
October 22, 2014 -- Updated 0959 GMT (1759 HKT)
Despite billions spent on eradicating poppy production, Afghan farmers are growing bumper crops, a U.S. government report says.
October 24, 2014 -- Updated 1021 GMT (1821 HKT)
Each day, CNN brings you an image capturing a moment to remember, defining the present in our changing world.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT