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Three killed in Thai troubled south

NARATHIWAT, Dec 23 (AFP) - Three people including a marine and a suspected militant were killed in two separate clashes in Thailand's violent far south, police and a military officer said Wednesday.

The military said that more than 100 security forces supported by helicopters sealed off a house in the Bacho district of restive Narathiwat province early Wednesday afternoon to arrest militants gathering there.

During the gun fight that ensued, one marine petty officer was killed along with a suspected militant. A local senior police officer was later shot and wounded when the fighting flared up again.

In another clash between security forces and suspected militants a 28-year-old Muslim man was shot dead in the Sai Buri district of Pattani province on Tuesday afternoon.

Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva expressed dissatisfaction Wednesday over his government's handling of the separatist violence as he marked one year in office.

"I am not pleased with our progress on solving the unrest in the south because the number of attacks have dropped by only a small amount, but in terms of policy implementation my government has managed to proceed," he said in a live broadcast on national television.

More than 4,000 people have been killed and thousands more wounded since a separatist insurgency erupted in January 2004 in Thailand's southernmost provinces bordering Malaysia.

Tensions have simmered in the mainly Muslim region -- formerly an autonomous Malay Muslim sultanate -- since it was annexed in 1902 by Buddhist-majority Thailand.

MySinchew 2009.12.23

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