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2 Teens on Bus Killed in Thailand

Asia: Gunmen open fire on vehicle near Myanmar border, wounding 15.

June 05, 2002|From Times Wire Services

BANGKOK, Thailand — Three masked gunmen opened fire on a Thai school bus near the border with Myanmar on Tuesday, killing two teenage students and wounding 15 others.

A senior Thai defense official said the shooting in Ratchaburi province, about 12 miles from Myanmar, was probably carried out by one of Myanmar's ethnic minority guerrilla groups and may have been intended to "create more misunderstanding" between the two countries.

The school bus was carrying about 20 students when it came under a hail of bullets as it was climbing a steep road in the mountainous jungle district of Suan Phung.

"I heard a series of loud shots, and many of my friends were hit," said Siriporn Sornpad, 13. "My school uniform was splattered with their blood."

The gunmen "wore black masks and green jungle uniforms," she said.

Two of her friends, a boy and a girl, were killed.

Among the wounded, all between 13 and 17 years old, nine were in critical condition, hospital officials said.

"I first thought it was firecrackers going off, and realized later that they were real bullets when I saw blood on my friends," one boy said.

Police and local officials said the gunmen looked like rebels from Myanmar's Karen ethnic minority, and they apparently escaped back into Myanmar. A spokesman for the main Karen rebel group fighting Myanmar's government denied involvement and speculated that Myanmar's military junta may have been behind the attack.

Hundreds of Thai soldiers and border police assisted by helicopters were searching for the gunmen in the area near the attack, said Thailand Deputy Defense Minister Yuthasak Sasiprapha.

Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who has been trying to smooth ruffled relations with Myanmar, said evidence pointed to armed militias operating on the border and not Myanmar troops.

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