BANGKOK Suspected Muslim rebels in southern Thailand killed eight soldiers in a roadside bomb attack on Saturday, days after the government rejected demands for a ceasefire over the Islamic holiday of Ramadan starting next month.
Thailand is a predominantly Buddhist country and resistance to central government rule in the Muslim-majority provinces of Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat has existed for decades, resurfacing violently in 2004.
The 60-kg bomb exploded as the soldiers were travelling in a military truck along a village road in Yala, police said. Another two soldiers were wounded and two villagers on a motorcycle behind the truck were also hurt, police said.
The opening of peace talks with rebel groups earlier this year has done nothing to end violence in the south, where more than 5,300 people have died since January 2004.
This week the Barisan Revolusi Nasional, one of the oldest groups operating in the south of the country and a participant in the talks, proposed a ceasefire for Ramadan, which starts around July 10.
In exchange they made demands including the release of all detainees in the south and the acceptance of Malaysia as a mediator, which the government rejected.
The three Muslim-dominated provinces were once part of a Malay Muslim sultanate until annexed by Thailand in 1909.
(Reporting by Surapan Boonthanom; Writing by Orathai Sriring; Editing by Alan Raybould and Jeremy Laurence)