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Southeast Asia, explained

Mistaken killing in Thailand's deep south riles Muslims

Army fesses up: old man, teenager shot at checkpoint were civilians
Mistaken killing thailand deep south 02 01 2012Enlarge
Thai Muslim men bury the body of a man who was shot dead by paramilitaries in Thailand's restive southern province of Pattani on January 30, 2012. Thai paramilitaries shot dead four people including an elderly man and a teenager in the kingdom's violence-torn far south because they feared they were under attack, police said on January 30. (Tuwaedaniya MERINGING/AFP/Getty Images)

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.


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