Gunmen in Thailand's deep south shot dead two Buddhist monks and wounded two others inside a temple, police said on Saturday, capping a week of deadly violence as the prime minister vowed to "punish" those responsible.
Black-clad assailants carrying rifles crept into Rattanaupap temple in Narathiwat province near Malaysia's border on Friday evening and started firing, local superintendent Pakdi Preechachon said.
He said the attack took place around 7:30pm local time, when gunmen dressed in black entered the temple.
"Two monks were shot dead at the temple while two others were wounded," Pakdi said.
Since 2004 clashes between ethnic Malay-Muslim rebels and the Buddhist-majority Thai state that annexed the region a century ago have killed nearly 7,000 people, mostly civilians of both faiths.
The death toll in the south dropped to a record low last year as Thailand's junta tightened its security web but violence has boiled over in recent days, raising concerns about soft targets at schools and religious institutions.
In the past, Buddhist monks have been targeted only infrequently.
But they have been told to suspend morning alms collection starting from Saturday in three southern provinces and the southern army commander has instructed security officials to step up safeguards of Islamic leaders who could also be at risk.
Junta leader and prime minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha condemned the temple shootings.
No one has claimed responsibility, but that is not unusual for the conflict. (AFP)