No clues over slaying of Muslims

Family members and relatives hold a burial ritual yesterday for the four Muslim men who were shot dead while panning for gold at a canal in Narathiwat’s Sukhirin district on Thursday.

POLICE INVESTIGATORS are investigating two possible motives for the massacre of four members of a Muslim family while panning for gold at a canal in Narathiwat province on Thursday, Sukhirin superintendent Pol Colonel Chaiwat Panboonthong said yesterday. 

Police were alerted at 9pm on Thursday of the murders at Sai Buri canal in Ban Nam Tok village in Tambon Sukhirin, Sukhirin district.

The four victims were identified as Mayusoh Bado, 49, his two sons Hillme Bado, 23, and Muhamad Hadis Bado, 16, as well as his son-in-law Maroshadi Poh, 36.

Their relatives had already collected the bodies from Sukhirin Hospital’s morgue for the burial ceremony.

The murders could have stemmed from the regional unrest, as the other side of the canal from where the men were panning, overlapped Chanae district where armed insurgents operate, said Chaiwat.

Or there may have been a conflict over the gold panning if the outsiders were viewed as encroaching on gold belonging to locals, he added as he led forensic officers to inspect the massacre scene again at 10am.

Gunshot wounds to the head and torso were apparently inflicted by M16 rifles, he said, noting that officers had collected 18 spent cartridges from the scene, and there appeared to be two assailants.

Narathiwat police commander Pol Maj-General Manus Sixsamat earlier gave similar details to Agence France-Presse, noting that the victims were shot by “war weapons” and police did not yet know the exact motive.

“But they may have been shot by hard-line militants … or by a rival group of gold panners,” he said.

No illegal activities

Internal Security Operations Command Region 4 front command spokesman, Colonel Pramote Phrom-in, told a press conference in Pattani yesterday that an initial probe failed to find a link between the victims and any illegal activities or national security offences in the area.

He also offered condolences to the deceased men’s families.

Their relatives told police that the four went to mine for gold at the canal during the day and did not return home to participate in the post-sunset Ramadan fast-breaking meal.

The relatives had asked a male neighbour to go looking for them and he had found their bodies.

It was reported that the men, riding on two motorcycles for the gold panning mission, used a small machine to suck up sand from the stream bed to later examine by hand for specks of gold.

Gold panning is not a major business in southern Thailand but flecks of the precious metal appear during heavy rains in some remote streams, providing a small bonus income for the area’s rubber tappers and farmers. – The Nation

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