At least 78 people died after a riot on Monday in Thailand's violence-plagued deep south, a Thai military official said Tuesday.
All of the people died of suffocation when they were transported to a military camp in the southern province of Pattani for investigation of a riot, the Fourth Army Deputy Commander Sinchai Nussathit told a press conference on Tuesday afternoon.
Many of the victims died for they were piled up each other in the military trucks transporting them from the neighboring Narathiwat province to Pattani, forensic scientist Pornthip Pojansunan also told the press conference.
Thousands of people on Monday gathered around a police station in Narathiwat's Takai district, demanding for the release of six locals arrested earlier for falsely reporting theft of weapons.
The six hour-long rally then deteriorated into a violent riot when demonstrators were trying to storm the police station and the security authorities had to use water cannon and tear gas to disperse the gathering.
Initial reports said at least six people were killed in the clashes and 12 others injured.
Following the incident, the Fourth Army in charge of regional security arrested over 1,300 demonstrators and transported them to the camp in Pattani for further investigation under the martial law.
However, after arriving at Pattani on Tuesday morning, 78 more people were found out dead in the military trucks, said Sinchai.
The announcement thus pushed the number of deaths related to the riot to 84.
The Thai Prime Minister earlier said the riot was organized by those responsible for the region's constant violence in the past nine months.
The security officials said they found out many pieces of weapons including four M16 guns and hundreds of bullets when they cleared the scene of melee.
Thailand's deep south has fallen into spiraling violence since the beginning of this year, when suspected re-flared local separatists created violence on almost daily basis that has claimed about 360 lives.
After Monday's chaos, the authorities have carried out curfew in eight districts in Narathiwat, banning people from getting out of home from 10:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m.
Local media reports showed, thousands of locals flooded into the Fourth Army camp on Tuesday to check whether their family members were among those arrested.