Most soldiers found dead along the roadside in Thailand's deep south, plagued by a separatist Islamic insurgency, are killed by men who slip away unseen.
But closed-circuit footage of a bloody weekend ambush offers some of the clearest images yet of separatist tactics.
The video, posted below, is disturbing. It shows a relatively well-coordinated team of more than a dozen insurgents in pick-up trucks firing on soldiers riding motorbikes. After the troops crash, the assailants appear to rifle through their clothes and steal their guns. Others jump out of a pick-up to lay down cover fire. (According to the Bangkok Post, police say they've apprehended the shooters.)
The clip adds video evidence to two well-established facts: the insurgents have grown tactically savvy and Thai soldiers, many of them conscripts, are often sitting ducks. Despite roughly $5 billion spent on the conflict, many Thai troops must resort to riding around on cheap scooters to get from point A to B. Soldiers are the most desired targets of the insurgents because they're symbols of Thai power and they tote M-16s that can be looted. They're also relatively vulnerable: here's a photo we ran in 2009 of soldiers' home-made bomb-proofed truck, which has steel plates welded to the truck bed.
For a more on the conflict -- including more video and an interview with a separatist leader -- please check out our series "Buddhists in Arms," which was reported from insurgency's so-called red zones. I focused much of that series on Buddhist militias and Buddhist wrath towards the insurgents. That anger is on full display in the YouTube video's Thai-language comments section, which doubles as a primer on hardcore Thai swearing. (The comment "f***ing animal savages" pretty much captures the tenor of the posted comments.)