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Insurgents now taking aim at 'soft targets'

Yala Hospital tightens its security, staff instructed to only leave premises when absolutely necessary

DESPITE BOOSTING its security measures, Yala's Yupparaj Hospital could not escape an insurgent attack when two of its trainee nurses were gunned down in the middle of a crowded market across the street on Wednesday.

Prasit Meksuwan, chief of the Civic Council in Southernmost Provinces, deplored the attack as he cited the analysis by security officials as saying the two gunmen were likely lying in wait for anybody who could be considered a Buddhist to leave the hospital.

Unfortunately, the two young women - Sutheera Phetjan, 29, and Kulradee Phetmak, 21 - ended up being the targets. Their families are now being provided with counselling and other assistance.

Meanwhile, Prasit urged Buddhists to avoid travelling alone or visiting markets, which he said were difficult to secure as there were far too many people and protection was often lighter.

Security sources say that these two women were randomly chosen for the attack because they weren't wearing headscarves. Also, they were possibly chosen as "soft targets" by a new breed of insurgents, who were possibly seeking to avenge the arrest of an ustad or Islamic teacher on Monday.

Separately, Dr Sawas Aphiwijjaneewong, chief of the public health provincial office, said the hospital has issued new regulations instructing members of staff to only leave the hospital premises if they have to run important errands.

They have also been warned to not go out alone or after dark.

"However, the shooting happened in broad daylight in a market that was packed with people. This is beyond expectation," he pointed out.

Director of the Sirindhorn Public Health College in Yala, which had assigned 11 students to undergo apprenticeship at Yupparaj Hospital, said normally food was provided to students and members of staff inside the hospital and that security was tight for all hospital personnel.

She added that the two women were randomly selected because they were defenceless and also because they were clearly non-Muslims as they were not wearing scarves.

The remaining nine students have been moved to other hospitals outside the three strife-torn provinces in the South.

Kanthima Aldri-us, a senior nurse who oversaw the 11 trainees, said hospital staff and students were only allowed to go to the convenience store across the road for their own safety, but an ad-hoc market was set up on the day of the tragedy right next to the store.

"It happened within just 10 minutes, after the two victims left the hospital for the market," she added.

The double murders were committed during the month of Ramadan, which runs from June 28 to July 28.

A truce during the Muslim holy period last year was agreed upon between authorities and insurgents as a result of a dialogue, which said women, children and civilians, identified as soft targets, would not be harmed.




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