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Last Updated: Saturday, 24 September 2005, 15:36 GMT 16:36 UK
Three held for Thai marine deaths
Tanyong Limo villagers block a district road - 21/9/05
Villagers stopped Thai troops getting access to the marines
Three men have been arrested in connection with the killing of two marines who were stabbed and beaten to death in southern Thailand.

The two soldiers were seized after a drive-by attack on Tanyong Limo village in Narathiwat province last Wednesday.

Some villagers said the marines were involved in the attack on a tea shop, which left at least one person dead.

The Thai authorities say it was a case of mistaken identity and have issued 11 arrest warrants over the killings.

Defence Minister Thammarak Isarangkura na Ayudhya said Thai security forces had arrested three people and were hunting down the others involved.

At least one person is killed and three injured in a shooting incident on Tuesday evening
Two marines kidnapped by local mob soon afterwards
Hostages taken to local school
Villagers set up roadblocks on Wednesday, preventing troops from entering
Hostages killed, reportedly as villagers heard rumour of a possible attack

"We have evidence of bloodstained shirts and tip-offs from other villagers," he told Reuters news agency.

Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra reiterated his determination on Saturday to take "tough action" against the marines' killers.

"We will not use undue brutality in apprehending insurgents," he said. "But in the course of fighting them, we will have to use all the necessary force possible."

Villagers' demands

The two marines, named as Sub-Lieutenant Vinai Nakhabut and Petty Officer Khamthon Thongeiat, were taken from their car on Tuesday night after villagers accused them of firing shots in connection with an attack on a local teashop.

The pair were in civilian clothes and driving an unmarked car.

Home to most of Thailand's 4% Muslim minority
Muslim rebels fought the government up to the mid-80s
Suspected militants have upped attacks since 2004, targeting Buddhists
Security forces' response criticised by rights groups

After taking the two men hostage - reportedly when their car broke down - local youths left them bound and blindfolded in a nearby school.

The villagers then prevented security forces from entering the area, blocking the main road with a log.

They reportedly demanded a withdrawal of security personnel from the area, and called for journalists from nearby Malaysia to come and report on the incident, since they did not trust the Thai media.

But before the journalists could arrive, the two marines were bludgeoned and stabbed to death, after a rumour spread that the villagers were about to be attacked by troops.

The bodies of the two men have now been recovered by the Thai military.

Increasing mistrust

Thailand's largely Muslim southern provinces have been hit by a wave of violence for more than a year and a half, leaving more than 900 people dead.

The government has blamed Muslim separatists for the violence, while local people have been angered by the security forces' often brutal suppression of the violence.

Correspondents say the killing of the marines is the latest sign of an increasing mistrust between southern villagers and the Thai authorities.

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