By The Nation
The double bombing at a large department store in Pattani on Tuesday was an act of cowardice. Whoever the perpetrators were, they were intent on using the lives and safety of many innocent people as bargaining chips to achieve their goal. In this, they had no hope of succeeding.
Sixty-one people, including five children, were injured in the twin blasts. At least 20 were hospitalised, four of them with serious injuries. Luckily no one was killed, but a horrendous amount of damage was done to property and to the psyches of local residents. The attack has been described as the largest in months on a civilian target in the insurgency-plagued far South.
The perpetrators used two explosive devices. The first was aboard a motorcycle left in the car park, the second a more powerful bomb hidden in a pickup truck outside the store’s main entrance. A passer-by, taking video after the initial blast, caught a huge fireball that sent people running for cover.
As is usually the case with violent attacks in the region, no one has claimed responsibility for Tuesday’s bombings, but, also as usual, ethnic Malay separatist insurgents are suspected. Authorities believe Muslim shoppers and their children, buying clothes and materials for the new school semester and the holy month of Ramadan, were deliberately chosen as targets in a bid to increase friction with the Buddhist community in the Muslim-majority region.
Regardless of whether the attack was aimed at Muslims,
however, the perpetrators clearly wanted to hurt civilians. Such indiscriminate and irresponsible attacks appear designed to terrorise people into submitting to the insurgents’ demands. It is, make no mistake, a form of terrorism.
The perpetrators obviously didn’t care who would get injured or even killed or whether the victims had any connection with their political enemies. There was no honour in this act. It warrants only condemnation.
When children are harmed, it is by the savagery of cowards, a sentiment shared by the United Nations Children’s Fund. “No child’s life should ever be put at risk in this way,” said the agency’s Thailand representative, Thomas Davin. “This is wholly unacceptable.” Angkhana Neelaphaijit of the National Human Rights Commission deplored the targeting of civilians. “The lives of innocent people should not be used in negotiating with the authorities,” she said. “Acts like this are illegitimate.”
Those who commit such heinous crimes are wrong to believe that violence can force people to side with them. They might well spread fear, but in conducting their campaign this way they strengthen the opposition. Whatever merit their cause might have is dismissed when violence is used against the innocent. This is not the way to achieve any goal.
It falls now to the authorities to be more alert to future dangers and improve safety measures. They must catch and prosecute these bombers, so that at least a measure of calm and normalcy can return to the streets. The violence cannot go unanswered. The lives and safety of ordinary citizens must not become bargaining chips.