Multiple attacks in deep South ‘bid to sow chaos’

national April 21, 2017 01:00

By The Nation

Bombing spree seen as ‘test run’ for new militants or an attempt to ‘boost status’



THE FOURTH Army Region has been ordered to tighten security measures following a series of 21 coordinated attacks in three southern border provinces on Wednesday night.

The attacks between 7.30pm and 8.30pm at locations in Narathiwat, Pattani and Songkhla caused eight minor injuries while two suspected insurgents were killed in Songkla’s Saba Yoi district.

Army commander-in-chief General Chalermchai Sittisat told reporters at the Defence Ministry that he had instructed Fourth Army Region chief Lt-General Piyawat Nakwanich to have defence volunteers and police, who seemed to be the targets, implement more strict preventive measures similar to the precautions taken by military units.

Saying that the motive remained unclear, he said the attacks on relatively unprotected “soft” targets along main routes might be an attempt to show insurgents’ ability to launch simultaneous attacks in various areas. Chalermchai added that an increasing number of people had surrendered to the Internal Security Operations Command (Isoc) Region 4, forcing the insurgents to launch attacks in an attempt to bolster their status.

However, a national security agency source said it was suspected that the attacks were supposed to be a “test run” for new recruits.

Chalermchai also referred to a 40-minute meeting with Prime Minister Paryut Chan-o-cha earlier yesterday at Government House regarding the latest deep South attacks in which the premier expressed concern about negative impact on people and urged regional authorities to take care of the issue.

National police chief General Chakthip Chaijinda had also urged police to launch preventive measures and to gather evidence, said deputy police spokesman Colonel Krisana Pattanacharoen.

Meanwhile, Narathiwat police chief Maj-General Manas Siksamut inspected the scenes of the attacks in seven districts – one in Sri Sakhon; one in Rusoh; three in Yi Ngor; three in Tak Bai; one in Sungai Padi that caused an injury; two in Waeng, one of which caused an injury; and two in Ra Ngae.

He was told that insurgents mainly used two types of home-made bombs, one of which was encased in a 12-centimetre pipe and the other in a tin can. The size of the bombs suggested that the attacks were meant to sow chaos, instead of inflict major casualties.

‘Misguided Thais’ blamed

The security camera at Sungai Padi’s Toh Deng train station showed four black-clad suspects who threw a bomb at an outpost within the compound, injuring a defence volunteer, and then opened fire for five minutes before fleeing. Police are comparing the images to those from similar violent attacks.

In Songkhla, where three attacks took place, two suspects – later identified as Mabidi Lamado, 32 and Masaki Jehjeh, 38 – were killed when their home-made bomb hidden in a motorcycle exploded, killing both men at around 8pm before they reached a military base in Saba Yoi district.

The two men had borrowed the motorbike from an assistant village headman, Meulee Jehmasong, 54, who was summoned yesterday as police checked the two men’s backgrounds for links to insurgent groups.

At nearly the same time on Wednesday night, two other suspected insurgents on a motorbike opened fire at soldiers in Thepha district, injuring a woman bystander. Another two-man team on a motorcycle threw a grenade at a police booth in front of Chana Police Station. No injuries were reported.

Isoc Region 4’s Front Command spokesman Colonel Pramot Phrom-in said “misguided Thais” had launched the attacks to create chaos with disregard to the affect on people’s lives or property.

Authorities had to enforce the law and protect people, not launch a war as some organisations that had tried to elevate the violence into an international conflict had alleged, Pramot added

He also offered condolences to the families of Mabidi and Masaki, calling them “victims of an insurgent group’s misguided promotion of violence”.

There were five attacks in Pattani province – two attacks in Yarang and one each in Kapho, Muang and Ma Yor, the last of which caused five slight injuries.