Security boost in South for Buddhist holiday
Bid to stop attacks on Makha Bucha Day after spate of minor dramas on weekendOfficials are beefing up security measures to prevent violent incidents from marring Makha Bucha Day celebrations in the deep South today.
Makha Bucha is an important day for Buddhists, who give alms in the morning, go to temples to make merit and then join candlelit processions at night.
Security measures are also being tightened in Pattani for the Lim Ko Neaw Goddess Celebration 2013, which runs until Wednesday.
Dozens of violent incidents, including explosions and arson attacks, erupted in the southernmost region on Saturday. One of the blasts took place just 20 metres from the site of the celebration of the Lim Ko Neaw Goddess. Three policemen were slightly injured.
In the wake of the attack, many tour groups cancelled bookings to visit Pattani for the celebration. Yesterday, the ritual, in which devotees swim across the Pattani River and walk through flames while carrying a statue of the goddess, did not attract a big crowd.
Police believe the attacks in Pattani were staged on Saturday to hurt tourism during the Lim Ko Neaw Goddess celebration.
"We are gathering evidence," a police officer said as he emerged from a meeting on the issue.
Pattani Governor Pramuk Lamun convened a meeting of all relevant units. "We will bring the culprits to justice," he said.
He added that the meeting was also held to boost security measures to provide safety for Buddhists celebrating Makha Bucha Day and joining the Lim Ko Neaw Goddess celebrations.
Security officials in Pattani, Yala, Songkhla and Narathiwat were strictly manning checkpoints and watching out for suspicious activities, persons and vehicles.
Intelligence sources have reported that insurgents are plotting to stage car-bomb attacks. The sources have specified the model and colour of vehicles likely to be used in the plot. They include a purple Toyota Yaris, a black Mitsubishi Triton and a crimson Toyota Corolla.
Narathiwat Governor Apinan Seutanuwong said security officials would intercept vehicles whose licence registration numbers matched those in intelligence reports and check if any vehicles use false licence plates.
He added that officials would also check suspicious people against file photos of suspects wanted in security cases.
"They may try to stage violent attacks," he said.
On Saturday, two bombs exploded in front of a convenience store in Narathiwat's Rangae district located very close to the 45th Ranger Regiment. Six people were injured.
Narathiwat Taskforce chief Maj-General Pisit Sittisarn said security officials would encourage locals to watch out for any suspicious activity.
According to police, recordings from security cameras outside the convenience store show a man driving a motorcycle up to a spot in front of the store at around 4.15pm on Saturday. One minute later, an accomplice arrives on another motorcycle and throws a bag containing the bomb into a garbage bin in front of the store. The man who was first to arrive is seen leaving the scene with the second man on the latter's motorcycle. Throughout the operation, a Toyota pickup parked itself in front of the store as if shielding the bombers from the cameras.
Just seconds after the suspects left the first bomb in the garbage bin exploded. The motorcycle left by the first bomber also contained a bomb, which went off at 4.39pm.
"We will summon street vendors around the area for questioning. Some food stalls were closed that day in a rather suspicious manner," Rangae Police Station superintendent Jiradej Prasawang said yesterday.
The motorcycle that was used as a bomb was reported stolen to the Sai Buri Police Station in Pattani.
"We will interrogate the motorcycle owner too," Jiradej said.
In Yala, soldiers vowed to provide tight security for Buddhists taking part in religious rituals on Makha Bucha Day.
Yesterday, they manned checkpoints on major and secondary roads. Checkpoints have also gone up on roads into Songkhla.
"We have manned checkpoints on key roads into Muang Songkhla," the head of Muang Songkhla Police, Colonel Sumit Srinuan said yesterday.
He said police, including plainclothes officers, plus administrative officials and defence volunteers, would work together to ensure the safety of residents and tourists, especially during Makha Bucha festivities.