Thai Police Blame Drug Trade Over Brutal Slaying Of Five In Yala

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By Mohd Haikal Mohd Isa

BANGKOK, June 13 (Bernama) -- The execution-style killing of five men in Yala province in southern Thailand on Monday is believed to be motivated by a conflict in the local drug trade, according to a senior police official.

The claim followed results of preliminary investigations into the 1 am (local time) incident.

"We have not yet ruled out other possibilities but our investigation finds victims were involved in drugs," said Royal Thai police deputy spokesperson Col Krissana Pattanacharoen here, adding that investigations were ongoing to find the culprits.

Police chief Gen Chakthip Chaijinda has also instructed investigators to speed up their probe into the incident and arrest those responsible behind it.

In the incident, five victims were resting in a house at Mukim Tanah Putih, Banang Setar in Yala when several assailants armed with shotguns and M-16 assault rifles arrived and gunned them down mercilessly.

Investigators quoted by the local media claimed that most of the victims were stabbed in the back and mouth before they were shot dead.

An official from the Internal Security Operations Command (ISOC) Region Four, Col Tanawee Suwannarat, said a probe conducted by the military had indicated the incident was not related to the southern Thai conflict.

He also said the assailants arrived at the house on two motorcycles.

The brutal slayings of the five men in Yala yesterday followed another round of violence in southern Thailand which saw a total of 14 people killed in the last 72 hours including deputy head of Pattani Islamic Affairs Council, Adulej Chaknae.

The 55-year-old widely respected Muslim leader was shot by unidentified attackers while making his way home after performing Friday prayer. He died from his injuries two days later.

The armed conflict in four southern Thailand's provinces has claimed more than 7,000 lives since 2004 including civilian and members of security forces, according to a non-governmental organisation which monitor the conflict, Deep South Watch (DSW).