YALA, Thailand, Dec 13, 2008 (AFP) - Separatist militants shot dead three villagers and left three others seriously injured in a late night attack in Thailand's restive south, police said Saturday.
They said the three men, aged 35, 45 and 38, were working as volunteer guards outside a government-run elementary school in Yala province when an unknown number of armed militants arrived on a pick-up truck and began shooting at 11:30 pm (1630 GMT) Friday.
Three other people, including one woman, were hospitalized and remain in a critical condition. Two machine guns were seized after the attack, they said.
Schools and teachers are frequent targets of attacks in the Muslim-majority south because militants see the education system as an effort by Bangkok to impose Buddhist Thai culture on the mainly ethnic Malay region.
A report released by UNICEF (UN Children's Fund) on Thursday warned that children were in danger of continuing their parents' legacy of separatist violence if they were not safeguarded from daily dangers around them.
More than 3,500 people have been killed since separatist unrest erupted almost five years ago in Thailand's Muslim-majority south.
Tensions have simmered since Thailand annexed the mainly Malay sultanate in 1902.
Last month, two bombs in Yala province wounded 74 people in one of the biggest attacks in the region.