Thailand's army is rightfully worried that rangers' killing of four civilians -- an old man and a teenager among them -- will spark public wrath in the Muslim-majority, insurgency-torn deep south.
The facts are fuzzy but, according to the Bangkok Post and other outlets, rangers inspecting a pick-up truck were startled and fired on the occupants. A Reuters report suggests that the troops may have been fired on by gunmen unaffiliated with the passengers.
No matter the cause, four innocent Muslim civilians are now dead. In such a volatile zone, where distrust of the Thai army is rampant, incidents such as this have a way of hardening sentiment against troops and prompting a backlash from insurgents fighting for independence.
The Thai army also reports the civilians had guns in the truck. But that's not saying much. As I wrote in our "Buddhists in Arms" series, both Buddhists and Muslims in this area are paranoid and well-armed.
Will this incident spin out of control?
Apparently, the Thai army fears it might: troops are being moved out of some outposts and into a central camp to pacify angry Muslims, the Bangkok Post reports.