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South Crisis

Bombing toll in deep South reaches 320

AS MANY AS 320 bomb attacks have hit Thailand's deep South during the past year. As of Sunday, 105 explosions had erupted in Pattani, 69 in Yala, 129 in Narathiwat, and 17 in Songkhla.

Just last Saturday, three bombs exploded in Songkhla's Sadao district, injuring 27 people. Many victims sustained serious injuries.

Kaycha Benjakarn, mayor of Tambon Samnakkham Municipality, yesterday lamented that one of those bomb attacks should have been prevented given that a local vendor had alerted police about a suspicious pickup near the Oliver Hotel hours before the truck proved to be a vehicle bomb and blew up.

"She called police in the morning," the mayor said. It then took about an hour before police arrived and checked the vehicle. They then simply told the vendor that the pickup was being used by someone going to Malaysia to buy cheaper petrol.

"Those policemen then left the scene. The bomb exploded, injured people and caused property damage," Kaycha said.

Sadao Police Station superintendent Colonel Paipana Petchyen admitted that a police captain and a second lieutenant had inspected the truck but failed to recognise it as a vehicle bomb. "They were too inexperienced. It's because no violent incident had happened in Sadao district before," Paipana said.

Provincial Police Region 9 chief Lt-General Pisit Pisuthsak said the recent incidents signalled that insurgents were trying to expand their violence to new areas. Initially, only four districts of Songkhla - Saba Yoi, Tepha, Chana and Na Thawi - had been struggling with unrest the way Narathiwat, Yala and Pattani provinces have.

In fact, concerns about Sadao have emerged since Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN) - which has engaged in a peace dialogue with Thai authorities - began mentioning the district in its demands earlier this year.

The government has tried to defuse the unrest in the deep South via various means, including the peace dialogue with BRN.

Colonel Pramote Phrom-in, spokesman for the Internal Security Operations Command Region 4 Forward Command, said the government's approach, especially the peace dialogue, had received praise from participants at the 40th Session of the Council of Foreign Ministers of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation.

The session ran from December 8-11 in the West African nation of Guinea.


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