Nine killed, 102 injured in blasts targeting commercial area in Yala
Coordinated lunchtime bomb blasts in downtown Yala City killed nine people and wounded 102 others yesterday, police said. Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra instructed the national police chief to travel to the South and work with the Royal Thai Army to investigate the attacks and take care of the injured.
Seven of those injured were in serious condition, Central Yala Hospital reported at 5pm.
Yala Governor Decharat Simsiri, who rushed to the hospital to check on the wounded, said the three blasts – two motorcycle bombs and a pickup truck bomb – occurred minutes apart near the Jongrak intersection on Ruam Mit Road.
The two motorcycle bombs went off at around 11.50am. Police arriving at the scene found many motorbikes, cars and nearby buildings on fire. Yala Municipality fire-fighters fought the blaze and took the injured to hospital.
As rescue officials were working at the scene, the third explosion occurred, caused by a bomb hidden in a pick-up parked in front of a 7-Eleven store 20 metres from the first blast. The car bomb damaged the store and five or six wooden shops plus several more vehicles.
Decharat said the attack zone was a commercial area with many shops and lunchtime eateries frequented Thai Muslim, Buddhist and Chinese people.
Civil servants were celebrating ahead of Civil Service Day today, and a military truck was parked near the scene of the first bomb, he said.
Another Yala police source said the first blast at the Jongrak intersection resulted from a bomb hidden amid two gas tanks loaded in a Isuzu pick-up. The second blast was a bomb hidden in a Toyota Tiger pick-up, while the third came an exploding petrol tank in a car parked nearby. The two bombs were reportedly detonated by remote control and the two trucks were stolen, the source said.
Army spokesman Colonel Sansern Kaewkamnerd said a check of security-camera footage found a suspected insurgent parked the pick-up before fleeing on a motorcycle. The three blasts took place within minutes of each other, he said, adding that officials had already gathered information and leads in the case and would beef up security.
In related news, a motorcycle bomb went off in front of a restaurant opposite Pattani’s Mae Lan police station at 2pm, slightly injuring a police officer. This prompted Pattani Governor to put all 12 districts in the province on alert.
Internal Security Operations Command Region 4 Front spokesman Colonel Pramote Phrom-in said the Yala bombings were carried out by insurgents in order to terrorise the public. He said this was because the public was turning away from the insurgents and cooperating more and more with officials, who continued to hunt insurgents and crack down on the drug-trafficking activities they used to fund their movement. He said the bombs were intended to remind people of the insurgents’ existence and to discredit officials’ efforts to protect people.
Earlier, Pramote told a 9am press conference that the overall situation in terms of security and the human-rights environment had improved in the three southernmost provinces, leading the public to grow more confident and trusting towards the state.
As part of six strategies implemented, Thai officials had prevented the insurgents from getting funds through drug and illegal gasoline trades, leading to the seizure of 300,000 litres of illegal fuel from October 2011-March 2012. Authorities had arrested 211 drug suspects in 150 cases, in which 250,000 yaba tablets were seized, along with 2.5kg of krathom leaves, 33,000 cough-syrup bottles and Bt300 million worth of assets, he said.
No complaints of human-rights violations had been filed against officials recently, Pramote said, adding that there had been 8,329 national security cases since 2004. He said wrongdoers were identified in 1,959 of these cases, and officials had been able to make arrests in 1,397 cases. Of the 270 cases to go to court so far, 54 per cent resulted in convictions and 46 per cent in acquittals. He said that, following the July 2, 2007, arrest of eight bomb suspects from an area near Isalam Burapa School in Narathiwat town and the seizure of weapons, ammunition, communications equipment and explosive components, seven suspects were prosecuted as adults while one was tried as a juvenile. The Narathiwat Court on March 16 sentenced five men to death and jailed one for 27 years, while one defendant jumped bail.