By The Nation
ABOUT 50 people were injured by a huge car bomb outside a department store in Pattani in the deep South yesterday afternoon that also caused widespread damage.
The bombers used a common tactic in the insurgency – triggering a small initial explosive inside the Big C department store, which sent shoppers running outside in panic, before the second bomb concealed in a pickup parked at an entrance door was detonated. The first bomb also seemed intended to distract authorities ahead of the second much bigger blast.
The attack took place at the store in Muang district at about 2.30pm, a time when the store was crowded with parents and children looking for school items including uniforms in preparation for the new semester.
Among the dozens of people injured in the blasts were store staff, at least one of whom was seriously hurt, as well as many children.
Colonel Pramote Prom-in, spokesman of the regional Internal Security Operations Command, said the bombers seemed intent on “mass killing”.
“The bombers parked the pickup in front of the entrance of the store, clearly showing their intention of mass killing. However, the suspicious vehicle was spotted and people were evacuated from the area in time before the second explosion,” Pramote said.
Fourth Army Region commander Lt-General Piyawat Nakwanich and security officials visited the site of the attack to inspect the area.
Initial reports from rescue workers said no one had been killed while 30 people, including store staff, were injured. The number of injured was later put at 50.
The first explosion was caused by a large firecracker that diverted attention, allowing the bombers to move the pickup to the store entrance. He said the second bomb was hidden in a bag in the pickup, which had the licence plate Bor Jor 3303.
Pramote said security workers at Big C saw the bombers, and officials were examining security camera footage to determine their escape routes.
Security, forensic and explosive ordinance disposal officials were combing the area, which was sealed off to the public, to collect evidence and search for other explosives, Pramote said.
Pitikarn Sitthidej, director-general of the Rights and Liberties Protection Department, condemned the attack, saying it was a cruel act that violated people’s rights to freedom and security.
The attack also tarnished the image of the country and people as a whole, Pitikarn said.
Unicef also condemned the attack. “According to reports, children are among the dozens of people injured in the bomb attack on a large and busy shopping centre in Pattani, Thailand, this afternoon,” it said in a statement. “Unicef condemns such indiscriminate attacks on civilian areas, where children and their families are known to be present. No child’s life should ever be put at risk in this way. This is wholly unacceptable.”
Meanwhile, police identified Nuson Kajornkam as the owner
of the pickup. When they visited
his house in Yala’s Muang district, they met his wife, who said her
husband had gone to Pattani.
Facebook user Montakanti Kasemsuk, who captured the second blast on Facebook Live, said she was about to leave the store when the first bomb exploded. She then stayed in the parking lot and began recording the incident.
Montakanti’s video initially showed people outside of the store in the Big C parking lot after the first blast. When the second bomb went off near her, her video clip captured a ball of fire before the video became shaky as she ran from the scene.
The attack was the third time that a branch of Big C has been the target of bomb attacks.
The first attack took place on August 1, 2005 when a bomb
hidden in a tree at a parking lot went off.
The second happened in the middle of night on March 1, 2012 when an incendiary bomb hidden in shelves exploded, causing a fire. No one was injured as the attack took place at night.