Suspected Islamic insurgents attacked a grocery store Monday in Thailand's restive south, killing a husband and wife who had migrated to the region, officials said. Gunmen shot at the store in Pattani province's Yarang district and then set it on fire, police said. Chom Phongsir and his wife, Nilranta, were killed instantly, while their 10-year-old son managed to escape, police said.
The couple had moved to the area from northeastern Thailand and police surmised that the attack was aimed at sending a message to other migrants following a proposal from some government officials to resettle Buddhist families in the mostly Muslim area.
"The investigators believed that the insurgents launched the attack on the grocery shop in an attempt to scare away the people from Isaan" in northeastern Thailand, said Maj. Pracha Chuaydee of Yarang district police.
Meanwhile, two highway workers were seriously injured when unidentified gunmen shot them as they were heading to work, Pracha said. The men were rushed to a hospital, where they were listed in serious condition, he said.
Up to 10 percent of Thailand's 65 million people are Muslims. Most live in the three southernmost provinces, where they have long complained of second-class treatment.
Several separatist rebellions have broken out in the area over the past century. The three provinces, annexed by Buddhist-dominated Thailand a century ago, are the only ones with Muslim majorities, reports the AP. I.L.