By SUPITCHA RATTANA,
THE FOURTH Army regional commander has recommended the removal of village headmen and local security personnel who claimed they were unaware of violence on Sunday, including the torching of a passenger coach, even though it happened in their jurisdiction.
Lt-General Piyawat Narkwanich said yesterday Army officials as well as village volunteers assigned to provide security for areas in Yala’s Bannang Sata district should also face immediate investigation to determine whether their negligence had led to the violence. He said he would recommend serious penalties if they are found guilty.
The general was referring to an incident in which a double-decker bus from Yala’s Betong district heading to Bangkok was stopped by a group of heavily armed militants on a road in Ban Kasode Village. The militants ordered the passengers and the driver out of the vehicle before pouring petrol on the bus and setting it alight.
The militants also built roadblocks, burned tyres and deployed spikes to prevent officials from pursuing them.
“How can a village headman claim that he did not know about the torching despite the fact that it happened in his jurisdiction? He and his deputy should be dismissed,” he said. Meanwhile, a source on the investigation team revealed that a suspect detained in connection with Sunday’s attack had given what the source described as “useful information” about the incident.
Witnesses told investigators that the militants were dressed in camouflage clothes, along with hoods and bulletproof vests, according to the source.
Deputy national police commissioner Pol General Srivara Rangsibhramanakul said the investigation had found that the violence was the work of militants operating in the area.
The attack aimed to create fear but not claim lives, he said, refusing to comment further. Piyawat also would not discuss the cause of the incident. He said he had ordered officials to collect evidence and gather information from witnesses, particularly bus driver Abdulloh Sawaeba-ngor and the attendant.
The bus had been previously damaged by a 2014 bomb explosion, Piyawat said, adding that information from the driver and the passengers would be checked against each other and other residents were also being interviewed.
“Three to four villagers have been invited to meet officials, particularly the owners of a house where the militants cut trees to set up roadblocks,” said Piyawat. “It is not possible that a roadside petrol vendor in the area knew nothing about the incident.”
Betong district has been recognised as a tourist attraction. Tourist traffic has brought about benefits and businesses, Piyawat said, as well as conflicts concerning transport concessions and investment from outside.