Troops are instructed not to trust locals in southern Thailand

Thailand's first Muslim army commander on Thursday inspected the site where suspected Islamic militants gunned down five of his soldiers just days after he took command, and warned troops not to place too much trust in the people of the country's Muslim-dominated south.

In another bloody day across the restive region Wednesday, five soldiers were gunned down as they ate their meals at a military post while elsewhere a villager was beheaded. The violence occurred as Muslims in Asia celebrated the first day of the holy month of Ramadan. There was more violence Thursday, as a local politician, Poroheng Saho, 41, was shot dead by gunmen as he was driving to his office in Pattani's Mayo district. In Narathiwat's Sungai Padi district, 62-year-old farmer Eh Salisuk was seriously wounded when gunmen shot him while he was riding a motorcycle.

"I have ordered soldiers on the scene to adjust their strategy and warned them not to trust local people too much. The soldiers at checkpoints have to be more cautious and on full alert," the army commander in chief, Sonthi Boonyaratkasin, told reporters.

Sonthi officially took over the powerful post on Saturday in the government's attempt to win the hearts and minds of Muslims in the country's three southernmost provinces where a separatist insurgency has taken the lives of more than 1,000 people since early 2004.

In Bangkok, Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra warned of escalated attacks by the insurgents and said he had ordered an "adjustment in strategy to catch up with them," reports the AP. I.L.

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