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12 March 2007

Thai Muslim militants behead Myanmar migrant

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Muslim militants beheaded a worker from Myanmar and killed two other migrant workers in a raid on a construction camp in Thailand's Muslim-majority far south, an army officer said on Monday

Five Myanmar workers were also wounded in the attack by militants armed with AK-47 assault rifles on the camp in the province of Pattani on Sunday night, Lieutenant Kriengsak Prakongsilp told Reuters.

The militants apparently thought Thai Buddhist workers were living in the camp in the largely Malay-speaking region where 2,000 people have been killed in a three-year-old separatist insurgency, he said.

"They beheaded one victim and left a message on the wall saying 'You kill the innocent and we kill Thai Buddhists'," Kriengsak said.

Attacks on foreign workers have been rare since violence erupted in The three far-south provinces of Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat in January 2004. The far-south region, annexed by Buddhist-majority Thailand a century ago, has periodically been convulsed by rebellion against Bangkok's rule.

In a separate incident, a 3-kg (6.6-lb) improvised bomb triggered by mobile phone exploded in a crowded market in Yala province on Monday, wounding eight people, police said.

Security officials in the south and in Bangkok are stepping up surveillance this week to ward off any sabotage which might erupt to mark the anniversary of the founding of a Muslim separatist group in the south.

Australia has issued two travel alerts in the past few weeks, saying intelligence pointed to a high threat of bomb attacks.

It said the increase in violence in southern Thailand might lead to attacks elsewhere in the country, including Bangkok and tourist areas such as Phuket and Pattaya.

Army chief Sonthi Boonyaratglin said on Sunday that, although security forces were on the alert, he did not expect attacks in Bangkok, where a still unsolved series of bombs killed three people on New Year's Eve.

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