Friday, July 19, 2019

Insurgents behind South bombing spree, not politics

Mar 11. 2019
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By The Nation

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Senior government officials said the series of bomb blasts over the weekend in the southern provinces of Phatthalung and Satun were related to insurgency activities in the predominantly Muslim region, and had no connection with the upcoming election.

The South has been racked by violence since early 2004. 

Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan met the steering committee on the deep South before flying to the two provinces.

Though no suspects have been arrested, Prawit said the committee had concluded that the recent incident was related to the ongoing violence in the region and had nothing to do with politics. 

“Since they could not do it [engage in violence] in the deep South, they moved to new locations,” Prawit said yesterday. 

National Police chief Chakthip Chaijinda and his deputy Srivara Ransibrahmanakul also flew to the two provinces, and came to the same conclusion that the bombings had nothing to do with politics or the upcoming election. 

Srivara added there were no early warnings from the intelligence and the police had no clue who was behind the bombings. 

Improvised explosive devices, or pipe bombs, either exploded or were found at 11 locations in Phatthalung province. Seven more were found in the neighbouring province of Satun, of which five exploded.

Police inspect the area after an overnight explosion outside a provincial police station in the southern Thai province of Satun on March 10, 2019. // AFP PHOTO

Since early 2004, insurgents have orchestrated violence mostly in the southernmost provinces of Pattani, Yala, Narathiwat and parts of Songkhla, killing nearly 7,000 people. It’s rare to see such incidents take place in other provinces in the South. 

Phatthalung is predominantly Buddhist and Satun is mostly populated by Malay-Muslims and relatively peaceful. 

Prawit’s adviser, Panitan Wattanayagorn, said military intelligence had recently noticed that insurgents from the deep South were starting to attack the upper South, adding they had safe houses in several locations in the new areas. 

“We also have good relations with neighbouring countries to provide strict checks at border crossings,” he said. 

Security officials in Satun and Phatthalung fanned out yesterday to collect more evidence from the bombing sites as well as seek more clues and leads about the suspects. Officials have reportedly questioned many people in the area, but have failed to pinpoint any suspects so far. Images from surveillance cameras at the scene have also failed to provide any useful leads, as the persons captured on film mostly wore helmets to cover their faces, officials said. 

Meanwhile, in Narathiwat province, officials found banners in Malay that read: “110 tahun tergadainya bangsa patani” or 110 years of sacrificing Patani, hanging in several locations. Similar words were seen sprayed on walls in many locations.

The insurgents want to use these banners as a symbol to mark the Anglo-Siamese Treaty signed on March 10, 1909 between then-Siam and the British empire handing the Sultanate of Patani over to Siam, an official said. 

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