Seven people were killed in a spate of shootings in Thailand's restive Muslim-majority south despite fresh government efforts to bring peace to the insurgency-torn region, police said on Saturday.
A 41-year-old Muslim was shot dead in front of his garage by two suspected Islamic militants on Saturday in Narathiwat, one of three troubled southern provinces bordering Malaysia.
Police said the victim had been cooperative with the government in its efforts to quell the long-running insurgency, which has claimed more than 1,500 lives since January 2004.
Local government officials, police, military and Buddhists are often targeted by Islamic militants but Muslims seen as sympathetic to the government are also attacked.
Also in Narathiwat, a 40-year-old Muslim villager was killed at a fish shop Saturday after gunmen fired a shot at his head.
In Songkhla province, located next to the three restive provinces, a 45-year-old Buddhist rubber trader was shot dead by two gunmen on Saturday.
Late Friday, a 25-year-old Muslim man was killed by suspected militants at a school in the southern province of Yala, where a 22-year-old Buddhist woman was also gunned down at a local health office Friday in a drive-by shooting.
A 43-year-old Buddhist man was also shot dead late Friday in Yala by suspected Islamic militants while driving a motorcycle. His wife was also injured in the attack.
In neighboring Pattani, a 45-year-old Muslim villager was shot dead at his house late Friday, police said, adding that two security guards at a hotel in Pattani were also shot and wounded in a separate shooting.
The fresh attacks came despite Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont's efforts to bring peace to the violence-plagued south.
Surayud, who was installed by the military following the bloodless coup in September that ousted former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, apologised to Muslims for the government's failure to end the long-running insurgency.
Surayud has also vowed to hold peace talks with militants, a reversal of Thaksin's heavy-handed approach widely blamed for worsening the bloodshed.
The post-coup government also announced on Friday that it would drop all charges against 92 Muslims connected to a deadly protest two years ago in a bid to help bring about national reconciliation in the restive south.
The Muslim-majority region was an independent sultanate that mainly Buddhist Thailand annexed in 1902, and separatist unrest has erupted periodically ever since.
The almost daily violence has been variously blamed on ethnic Malay separatists, Islamic extremists and criminal gangs.