Militants in Thailand have launched more than 20 small attacks across the troubled southern provinces, killing at least four people and burning police checkpoints.

The Thai army says the attacks, by suspected Islamic rebels, mainly targeted civilian militias that have been created by the government to help combat an ongoing separatist insurgency. Attackers burned villages and stole weapons from local armories during Wednesday night's raids in Narathiwat, Yala and Pattani provinces.

Thailand has not been able to stop the southern violence, despite enacting state-of-emergency laws, creating civilian militias and urging Malaysia to strengthen border security.

The mainly Buddhist government in Bangkok has tense relations with the Muslim south, where many people are ethnic Malays. Since 2004, fighting has killed almost 1,000 people.

Some information for this report provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.