Suspected Islamic militants shot dead a female Buddhist teacher in Thailand's troubled south on Tuesday in a spiralling uprising against central government authority, police said.
The 56-year-old elementary school teacher was shot in a drive-by attack in restive Yala province as she rode to work on her motorcycle, they said.
The killing comes amid a recent upsurge in violence in the Muslim-majority region bordering Malaysia, where more than 3,700 people have been killed during a bitter five-year insurgency.
The victim was the 117th teacher shot dead since the unrest began in the volatile provinces of Yala, Narathiwat and Pattani in January 2004, said Boonsom Thongsriplai, head of a southern teachers' confederation.
Schools and teachers are frequent targets of attacks in the south because militants see the education system as an effort by Bangkok to impose Buddhist Thai culture on the mainly ethnic Malay region.
The insurgents also target other civilians -- Buddhist and Muslim alike -- and security forces.
Thailand's government is struggling to curb the recent spike in violence, which included a bloody attack on a mosque in which gunmen shot dead 11 people during evening prayers last week.
Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva on Sunday raised the possibility of making the south a special administrative zone as a political solution to the unrest but he ruled out granting any form of autonomy.
The southern region was an autonomous Malay Muslim sultanate until Thailand annexed it in 1902, provoking decades of tension.