Defence Minister Sukumpol Suwanatat has accepted military rangers wrongfully shot dead four villagers in Pattani.
ACM Sukumpol yesterday agreed with the conclusions of an independent report that volunteer rangers killed four innocent people in Nong Chik district of Pattani on Jan 29. The minister said the military accepted the conclusions of a fact-finding committee, and justice would be served and damaged parties would be compensated in accordance.
After the killings, the pick-up showed silent testimony to the rangers' firepower, and Muslim men prepared the dead for burial and grieving women and children watched.
However, ACM Sukumpol said he also sympathised with security officers who risked their lives and were killed every day protecting workers, teachers and monks in the southern border provinces.
He said authorities would use better technology to boost security operations. Improved checks on vehicles, motorcycles, mobile phones and ID cards would now be carried out.
With stricter controls, ACM Sukumpol said the security situation in the far South would improve gradually.
He admitted the narcotics and weapons trade, and money laundering were adding to the violence, but said the authorities were trying to isolate that from insurgency violence.
Meanwhile, at a press conference in Pattani, 4th Army chief Lt Gen Udomchai Thammasarorat said the rangers involved in the villagers' deaths were responding to an incident in the area and heard a gunshot at the scene.
However, he said he accepted the conclusion of the fact-finding committee, which was also recognised by villagers and an Islamic committee member.
Four people in a pickup were shot dead in Ban Kayi village as rangers were hunting a group that had just attacked their base in Nong Chik.
At the press conference, the Southern Border Provinces Administrative Centre (SBPAC) handed 400,000 baht to relatives of each dead villager. The shooting also wounded five people.
Elsewhere, in Tak Bai district of Narathiwat yesterday, a police officer had his leg blown off after a vegetable plantation owner reported a suspected bomb on his property.
On attending the scene, a 40-year-old police officer stepped on one of three mines, losing his leg. Shrapnel also seriously injured another officer. Two other mines were later destroyed.
In another incident, a bomb killed a volunteer ranger and wounded a soldier, another ranger and a villager in Ban Buera-ngae village of Cho Airong district in Narathiwat province about 7.30am yesterday.
Prior to the explosion, a villager called a group of security officers on patrol to check a suspicious steel box placed at a pillar of a railway bridge.
The device was detonated remotely when the officers approached.