Vehicle bomb in milk pickup defused in Narathiwat; experts doubt Mara patani’s ability to stop violence
OFFICIALS in Narathiwat’s Waeng district managed to defuse a large car-bomb yesterday, packed in a hijacked milk-delivery pickup, as peace talks in Kuala Lumpur reached common ground on the terms of reference.
The Thai delegation led by General Aksara Kerdphol and Mara Patani, an umbrella organisation of insurgent groups, agreed to further talks on a proposed safety zone for the next meeting, Mara Patani representative Abu Hafez Al-Hakim said.
Both sides also accepted proposals from the Women’s Agenda for Peace for further discussions and affirmed the Joint Working Group Peace Dialogue Process in Southern Thailand (JWG–PDP) meetings would continue unofficially, Al-Hakim said.
But there was no formal written agreement after the meeting yesterday.
Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha said later he had not received a report from Aksara, but added that the talks would yield results only when put into action.
Many subjects raised in talks had not been realised, he said, adding that the country’s laws would be upheld.
After returning from Malaysia, Aksara told reporters that the session had proceeded as per Prayut’s instructions.
The talks were now in a trust-building stage among stakeholders in the predominantly Muslim region, he said.
The Thai team also tabled Prayut’s desire for a cessation of violence in the region before the talks proceed and the Women’s Agenda for Peace proposals, which the Mara Patani took for consideration.
The date of the next meeting has not been scheduled yet.
Separatists from six groups that Mara Patani represents said they had nothing to do with recent attacks and would join Thailand to create peace in the region, Aksara said.
Violence has plagued the deep South since early 2004, with more than 6,500 people killed and many more injured while authorities in Bangkok have failed to restore peace.
Attempts to establish peace talks with separatists generally have failed because groups who talk with the government do not represent militants on the ground.
Security officials and analysts have already expressed doubt about the ability of Mara Patani to stop the violence.
In Narathiwat, the milk truck, which was hijacked by six armed men at a school in Pattani’s Sai Buri district on Tuesday and modified to avoid detection, was found parked outside the house of superintendent Pol Colonel Suthawet Thareethai.
Investigators found a large cooking gas cylinder and petrol on the front passenger seat, so they cordoned off the area as a bomb-disposal team defused the bomb.
The team, led by Pol Lt Colonel Prachuap Nimreung, spent four hours defusing the bomb.
The discovery of the Isuzu pickup truck followed the explosion of a small bomb planted in a flowerpot in front of a restaurant near a police station at about 6.30am yesterday.
The bomb, attached to a five-kilogram metal box, damaged a nearby concrete wall slightly but no one was hurt.
As officials inspected the scene of the explosion, they spotted the milk truck, which had a fake Narathiwat-registered licence plate – Kor Bor 8028 – 20 metres from the scene of the first explosion. Witnesses told police that a man parked the truck at the spot before driving away on a motorcycle driven by another man five minutes before the small explosion.
Police suspect the car bomb was meant to harm officers responding to the small bomb and the petrol was supposed provide fuel for a fire meant to consume the superintendent’s house.
They examined footage from security cameras in the area and checked for fingerprints.
Later, in Pattani, Colonel Yutthanam Petmuang, deputy spokesman of the forward command of the 4th region Internal Security Operations Command, told the press the hijacked milk truck carried a 15kg cooking cylinder which held an IC-Timer bomb, the total weight of which was 80kg. The truck also carried six petrol containers.
Yutthanam also said Fourth Army Region chief Lt-General Wiwat Pathompak thanked the public for helping security officers in preventing violence in the region.