Thai soldiers early Wednesday fought off an attack on a navy base in the violence-wracked deep-South, killing at least 17 suspected Muslim militants, officials said, dpa reports.
More than 30 assailants wearing Thai army uniforms and bullet-proof vests attacked the navy base at Bajoh, Narathiwat province, 700 kilometres south of Bangkok, at 1 am Tuesday (1800 GMT), but the base was ready for them, said Colonel Pramote Phonin, spokesman for the Internal Security Operations Command (ISOC).
"Villagers had tipped us off on the planned attack so we were waiting for them," Pramote said.
Some 17 of the suspected Muslim militants were slain and 16 M-16 rifles seized along with one pistol, he said.
"We are hunting for the others," he said. "We think the attack was an act of revenge, but things should become clearer after we investigate."
Thailand's majority Muslim deep-South, comprising the three southernmost provinces - Narathiwat, Pattani and Yala - has been the scene of escalating violence since January, 2004, when Muslim militants attacked an army depot and stole hundreds of war weapons.
More than 5,000 people have fallen victim to the violence over the past eight years.
A long-simmering separatist movement is at the heart of the struggle, as the majority Muslim population of the three southern provinces feel alienated historically and culturally from the predominantly Buddhist Thai state.