At least eight people, including three children, were killed by gunmen posing as government officials in Thailand's Krabi province, police said on Tuesday. The authorities believe that the mass slaying was sparked by a personal conflict.
The police said a gang of six or seven men, dressed in camouflage outfits, stormed a house in the southern province around 4 pm local time on Monday. They took ten people hostage and waited for the owner of the property to return.
"Around 8 pm the owner arrived, all of them (the victims) were handcuffed and blindfolded until midnight when gunmen opened fire," Chaiwut Buathong, chief of Ao Luek district, told AFP.
Chaiwut added that six people died at the scene, two others died in hospital. According to him, three of the victims were girls aged under 15. Three others were taken to hospital with one in critical condition.
Deputy national police spokesman Krissana Pattanacharoen said the victims came from a local Muslim family and that the gunmen "claimed to be officials who wanted to check on illegal activity".
Several photos that were taken by medical workers showed two bodies slumped on a blood-splattered children's bed, with a teddy bear thrown to one side. "It is under investigation but initially police suspect this is a personal conflict," Major General Worawit Panprung, from Krabi provincial police, told AFP.
Firearm ownership is common in Thailand and the country boasts one of the highest gun-related homicide rates in Asia. Petty arguments and disputes frequently turn deadly but mass organised killings are rare.
Krabi province is a popular holiday destination boasting beaches like Ao Nang and Rai Ley, though Monday's killings took place in an area removed from the main tourist drags. The province boasts a large Muslim community who have lived in the region for centuries.
They are Thai speakers and ethnically different from the Malay-speaking Muslims in the country's three southernmost provinces where a violent nationalist insurgency has raged against the central government for more than a decade.