When two assailants on a motorcycle staged an ambush against a Narathiwat school headmaster last month, the incident came as a shock to students at the Ban Waeng school, where he works. The Waeng district has been relatively free of the insurgent violence that has plagued other parts of the Deep South, and residents want to keep it that way.
Students responded by holding a protest against the militants, demanding that they cease targeting innocent people.
They carried banners calling on local residents to stand up for peace, report any militants who might be hiding within the community, and to be the "eyes and ears" in helping to end the violence. Words on the banners were written in Thai and Malayu, using both Rumi (Latin-based) and Yawi (Arabic-based) script.
Avirute Yaseng, the headmaster, survived the attack, which took place while he was driving through Sungai Padi, on his way home from work. He received a gunshot wound to the left arm and was taken to a local hospital.
Until the shooting, not a single violent incident linked to the insurgency had been reported there in over a year. According to Sanguan Intharak, president of the Narathiwat Teachers' Association, the attack was particularly unusual because the headmaster is a Muslim.
"We will have to wait until the police investigation reveals what the motive was, but this is an unprecedented incident because it is the first time a Muslim school director has been targeted in such an attack over the last nine years," he told Khabar South Asia.
Government school employees have become increasingly popular targets among insurgents. Over 150 educators have been killed in the region since the violence flared up in 2004.
The students in Waeng not only rejected the insurgents' violent tactics but their separatist ideology. "This country belongs to all of us; we don't want to separate," one banner read.
While the militants have often carried out ambushes against security and police personnel, a string of recent incidents suggests they may have shifted tactics and are becoming more inclined to target civilians. In one particularly harrowing incident last month, gunmen shot dead a Pattani toddler and his father, along with several other acquaintances of the family.
"The groups carrying out these violent acts are increasingly targeting innocent people," said Thawat Sae-um, director of the Narathiwat Primary Educational Service Area Office, which runs schools in Waeng and neighbouring districts.
"This attack was carried out in Sungai Padi, which is a 'red zone'," he said, referring to the government's classification of areas with high incidents of terror attacks.
"Waeng district is still mostly a green (safe) district," Thawat said. "Nevertheless, this ambush against one of our teachers indicates a breach in the security measures we have put in place to ensure teacher safety."
"I don't know who the attackers are or what benefits they derive from continuing to target teachers," he added.
Among the youngsters taking part in the peace march was 11-year-old Suhaifee Dereh, a fifth-grade student at Ban Waeng School.
"This attack has greatly saddened us. Why did they have to shoot my teacher? Did he do something? He has always taught us to be good people, so we are happy to have this peace protest; to oppose violence, show that nobody can bully us around, show our love for our teachers and try to stop anyone from shooting our teachers in the future," he said.
Additional reporting by Somchai Huasaikul