Insurgents burned Thai flags and raised Malaysian flags in their place across Thailand's Muslim-dominated south today in a co-ordinated operation that also saw six soldiers wounded in bomb blasts.
The unrest came on the anniversary of the 1989 founding of an umbrella separatist group that combined four Thai separatist movements, as well as the anniversary of neighbouring Malaysia's independence from British rule.
The insurgents are mainly ethnic Malays, but it's not clear why they would raise Malaysian flags. They have previously campaigned for a separate state but have never called to be part of Malaysia.
More than 5,000 people have been killed in Thailand's southern provinces since an Islamist insurgency flared in 2004.
Bombings and shootings of security forces and civilians have been common insurgent tactics, but the last time Malaysian flags were raised was in 2009 during a visit to southern Thailand by Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak.
Human Rights Watch senior researcher Sunai Phasuk said it was a mystery why insurgents would raise Malaysian flags because he could find "no convincing reason."
Police said that Thai flags had been burned and Malaysian flags displayed prominently along roads and on electricity poles, trees and pedestrian bridges in the southernmost provinces of Yala, Pattani, Narathiwat and Songkhla.
Authorities found "suspicious items" at 102 spots across the four provinces this morning. Several of the items were bombs that exploded, wounding six soldiers in Narathiwat, but most were fakes.