Bangkok: Thai insurgents shot dead a teacher in front of dozens of children in a school cafeteria on Wednesday, police said, in the latest deadly attack on an education worker. Cholathee Charoenchol, a 51-year-old Muslim, was shot in the head at Tanyong school in Bacho district in Narathiwat province as at least 30 pupils and several teachers looked on, according to officials.
He was the 158th teacher and other school staff killed during a nine-year-old insurgency that has gripped Thailand's Muslim-majority deep south near the border with Malaysia. Bacho police said two insurgents parked their motorcycle in front of the school canteen and walked into the building, where one of them shot Cholathee with a pistol.
"There were between 30 and 40 students in the cafeteria when he was shot," local police chief Colonel Pakdi Preechachon said. Thousands of schools closed temporarily in December in protest at a lack of security for teachers, who are targeted by the shadowy network of militants for their perceived collaboration with the Thai state. They reopened after the government pledged to beef-up security. Colonel Pramote Promin, the spokesman for the army in the south, said a lack of cooperation from Muslim villagers was making it hard to protect teachers "no matter how strict security measures are".
"This school is situated in an area where 100 percent of the villagers and all of teachers and students are Muslims," he said. Near daily attacks -- including shootings, bombings and even beheadings -- mean violence is a part of life for many in Thailand's far south. More than 5,300 people, both Buddhist and Muslim, have been killed since 2004, according to local conflict monitor Deep South Watch.