Monk shot dead in Thai south

AFP, March 5, 2011

BANGKOK, Thailand -- Gunmen killed a Buddhist monk and injured two others as they collected alms in Thailand's insurgency-plagued south, according to police.

The three monks were shot by two assailants on a motorcycle as they walked through a busy area in Pattani province.

Monks often make their daily rounds with a security detail to protect them from attacks, but police said the victims were unaccompanied because they felt they would not be in danger in a market with a lot of people around.

Shadowy Islamic insurgents have waged a violent campaign in Thailand's southernmost region bordering Malaysia since early 2004, leaving more than 4,400 people dead, including both Muslims and Buddhists.

Violence appears to have intensified recently. A bomb in Yala province killed nine villagers in January and an unusually bold attack by militants a week earlier on a military base left at least four soldiers dead.

Last month, a grenade and bomb attack on a karaoke bar in Narathiwat town injured 17 people and another blast on a busy street in Yala town killed one shop worker and injured 13 other people.