About 18 gunmen dressed as paramilitaries opened fire on soldiers waiting to escort teachers home in Narathiwat, one of three southern provinces near the border with Malaysia that have suffered nearly eight years of conflict.
Police said one Muslim student, believed to be aged seven, was hit by a stray bullet in the incident, the latest in a series of increasingly brazen attacks by the shadowy militants.
“By firing into an army base inside a school, insurgents knew they could also harm students and teachers,” said Human Rights Watch senior researcher Sunai Phasuk. “Such brutality is sickening.”
The attackers seized five guns and bulletproof vests from the dead soldiers before fleeing the 400-student school, whose director was shot dead three years ago while boarding a train home.
In a separate attack, 16 militants in two pick up trucks and motorcycles opened fire on a military outpost in another area of Narathiwat on Tuesday (September 27), killing a 21-year-old private and injuring two other troops.
A 47-year-old Muslim man was gunned down in a drive-by attack the same day.
Teachers working in state schools in the region are frequently targeted because they are seen as a symbol of government authority and an education system perceived as an effort by Bangkok to impose Buddhist culture.
Many schools have armed guards based in the grounds and soldiers provide protection for teachers on their daily commute.
New York-based Human Rights Watch says that the presence of soldiers in schools puts civilians at risk.
More than 140 teachers have been killed in near daily attacks since insurgents launched an uprising in early 2004, claiming the lives of more than 4,800 people, both Muslims and Buddhists.
In July three young children and 15 adults were wounded when a bomb hidden in a parked motorcycle exploded at a school in neighbouring Yala province.
Earlier this month a teacher was shot dead and his body set on fire.
Amnesty International on Tuesday called on insurgents to halt attacks on civilians, a practice that it said was on the rise and in many cases amounted to a war crime.
Malaysian tourists were among four killed and 110 wounded in multiple blasts in the popular border town of Sungai Golok earlier this month. – AFP