Three killed in Thailand shootout


A soldier, policeman and a suspected insurgent were killed in a gun battle in Thailand's restive Muslim south, security forces said today.

At least two rebels were cornered inside a house for five hours but managed to escape, despite a combined force of 200 police and soldiers surrounding the building.

"Security forces stormed the house after a five hour wait but the gunmen had just disappeared," a police official said.

The standoff came after unknown gunmen attacked a joint military and police patrol unit early Saturday in a town in Yala, one of three provinces near the Malaysian border where nearly 3,500 people have died in five years of unrest.

After the policeman, soldier and suspected militant were killed in the gunfight, the other gunmen retreated to a nearby house and resisted calls by security forces to surrender, the reporter said.

The predominantly ethnic Malay Muslim region was an independent sultanate known as Patani before it was annexed by Buddhist Thailand in 1909 as part of a treaty with Britain.

The 30,000 troops deployed to the region five years ago have failed to quell the mysterious violence, for which no credible group has claimed responsibility.

A recent escalation in hostilities in the deep south has killed 41 people and wounded 60 this month alone.