THE INSURGENT Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN) was probably behind the bloody robbery, hostage-taking and car bombings in the restive South on Wednesday, Deputy Defence Minister Udomdej Sitrabutr said yesterday as authorities identified four suspects linked to the incident.
Two people were killed in the robbery and hostage drama as insurgents stole six cars from Wangto Car Centre in Songkhla’s Na Thawee district, turned vehicles into car bombs and orchestrated a spate of violence in the predominantly Muslim region.
Several suspects were still on the run yesterday and one of the six stolen cars was detonated in the early morning in front a police officer’s house in Pattani’s Mayo district.
No one was killed or injured in the latest bomb attack, as police spotted the vehicle while it was being parked shortly before 4am. The houses of officials located 10 metres from the blast were partly damaged.
Authorities have now recovered all the pickup trucks, or their remains, that were stolen on Wednesday, officials said. Another truck was detonated on the same day in Pattani province’s Nong Chik district, shortly after the suspects stole the vehicles from the used car showroom in Na Thawee district, 70 kilometres away.
The robbery served as the opening act in a dramatic series of events, including the taking of four hostages who worked at the showroom, a shootout, two explosions, the safe disposal of a bomb and the deaths of hostage Saharat Laeni and suspected insurgent Nur-asan Awae.
The unusual spate of violence took place during the daytime and demonstrated the coordinated robbery of several vehicles.
However, critics and analysts should not jump to conclusions that the suspected insurgents’ daring attack resulted from loopholes in security operations, Deputy Prime Minister General Prawit Wongsuwan said yesterday in response to the incident.
“The three southern border provinces cover a vast area,” said Prawit, who is also defence minister. “Who would have thought they would strike in Songkhla? Our officers are not lax, because they quickly intercepted the stolen trucks, their investigation points to the same old group and they even identified four suspects.”
Prawit said the tight security measures in Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat had forced the insurgents to conduct the robbery in Songkhla instead.
Officials have suggested that the suspected insurgents might include previously unknown militants, and no further details were issued about the identity of the four suspects that were being pursued yesterday.
Deputy Defence Minister General Udomdej said he suspected that the BRN, which has long been active in the region, might be behind the robbery to maintain their presence in the insurgent movement. The minister, who is also a former Army chief, did not refer to any specific factions within the BRN.
Authorities are engaging in dialogue with the group MARA Patani, which claims to be an umbrella organisation of insurgent groups including the BRN.
Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha had instructed the Thai negotiation team to include more groups in talks with separatists in order to end violence in the region, Udomdej said.
The insurgents were looking for opportunities to carry out violence, he said, adding that officers must be on guard and the public should also be alert for suspicious activities.
There were still security loopholes in areas in the deep South, including the provinces of Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat as well as four districts in Songkhla that allowed the insurgents to strike, he said.
The four Southern provinces have been rocked by a spate of violence that erupted in 2004, claiming more than 6,800 lives so far. Authorities in Bangkok have made several attempts over past years to establish peace talks with the insurgents, but no progress has been made to end the violence.
Published : August 17, 2017
By : The Nation