'Preparation, help from locals key to defence of camp'
The Marines' success in protecting their camp in Narathiwat against an insurgent raid in the early hours yesterday was credited to good preparation and tip-offs from local residents and some alienated insurgents weary of violence after nine years of strife in the deep South.Security forces discovered information on a possible plan to attack the camp of Taskforce 32's Second Rifle Company in the southern border province's Bacho district during a recent hunt for suspected insurgents wanted for the killing of a local teacher.
About 50 heavily armed insurgents attacked the camp from the front and the rear. They faced strong resistance from nearly 50 Navy Seal Marines who had been deployed following tip-offs.
Sixteen of the raiders were killed in the gunfight, which continued for more than one hour. There were no casualties among officials.
General Udomchai Thammasarorach, commander of the Fourth Army Area, which covers the deep South, said yesterday that this was an important blow against the insurgents. The successful defence of the camp would have a psychological impact by sending a message to locals that the insurgents were not in control.
"If the insurgents' operation had succeeded, local residents would continue to fear them," Udomchai said in his capacity as local director of the Internal Security Operation Command's Forward Unit.
He said the success was due to the Marines' strong combat experience and tip-offs from the locals. The Marines have built trust among local residents due to their politeness, assistance and friendship, the general said.
"Also, some of their men [the insurgents] have become fed up and gave us information," he added.
Commodore Somkiat Pholprayoon RTN, commander of the Marines, said the insurgents failed because the Marines received cooperation from the locals.
"The locals are aware that the Marines have good intentions towards the innocent. Many people [in the majority-Muslim region] realise that some beliefs have been distorted from the original religious teaching," he said.
"After more than nine years of violence, they have become fed up. They want peace to be restored and the soldiers make them feel that they have someone who can help."
Earlier this month, Marines were involved in gunfights with suspected insurgents in Narathiwat wanted for the murder of teacher Chonlathee Charoenchon.
In one raid on February 4, the suspects fled. Among the items left behind was a map of the camp. In another raid on February 9, leading insurgent Suhaidee Tahe was killed in a gunfight. Found at his hiding place was a map of the camp and writings in the local Malay language, according to Captain Thammanoon Wanna RTN, commander of Taskforce 32.
A local resident who lives near the targeted camp said there had been a rumour over the past five days that a military camp in Pattani or Narathiwat would be raided. "But it was not clear which one was the target," he said.