15 cars destroyed, damage bill put at Bt20 million; senator 'not targeted'
A Honda car dealership was set ablaze in Pattani early yesterday, destroying 15 cars and doing about Bt20 million in damage.
Deputy Prime Minister Yuthasak Sasiprapha said the business became a target because insurgents were unable to attack well-secured government offices in the area.
“But we will not conclude that they have changed their tactics or targets,” Yuthasak said, noting that the insurgents choose any vulnerable targets.
“The military and police have to take care of all in the area,” he said.
The owner of the Honda showroom is Senator Anusart Suwanmongkol. He also owns the CS Pattani Hotel, which was partly damaged by a bomb attack on July 31. However, he said he didn’t feel his businesses were being specifically targeted as many others have also been attacked.
Around 10 people wearing hoods stormed into the dealership at about 3am and forced the security guard to lay down on the floor. They then set fire to the cars.
It was a five-minute operation, but it took firefighters more than two hours to get the blaze under control. Fifteen cars were completely destroyed and two more partly damaged. A stereo was stolen from one car, a dealership official said.
“Violence is intensifying in the deep South, but I don’t want to blame anything or anyone,” Anusart said. “I don’t think it is the result of the government’s operational adjustments.
“But I urge Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, as the head of all agencies, including the Internal Security Operations Command and Southern Border Province Administration Centre, to take care of the safety of the people.
“We might have many agencies operating in the deep South, but all of them are under the prime minister. The government is then obligated to review the operations and set a new direction,” he said.
Pattani deputy governor Lertkiat Wongphophan said the attack on the car showroom was a psychological-warfare tactic, aiming to spread fear. He has ordered security to be beefed up in other places that might be symbolic targets, such as Buddhist temples, schools, communities, as well as transport centres.
Violence has increased in the South since early 2004, claiming thousands of lives, mostly local Muslims. The government has struggled to contain the conflict. Harsh tactics by the military, appeasement by politicians, and a restructuring of operations on the ground have had little effect.
Yuthasak said he would soon call a meeting of the newly set up operations centre under his command and aim for improved intelligence and strengthened security.