Motive sought for attacks in deep South
Govt probes link between multiple bombings and promulgation of the new constitution on Thursday.
THE GOVERNMENT is trying to determine whether coordinated but bloodless attacks in the deep South on Thursday night were related to the newly introduced constitution, as people in the predominantly Muslim region rejected the charter during the referendum last year.
Just hours after HM King Maha Vajiralongkorn endorsed the charter draft on Thursday, several bomb blasts and tyre burning incidents took place in four southernmost provinces.
“I am curious about the timing of these attacks,” Defence Minister General Prawit Wongsuwan, who is also the deputy prime minister overseeing security affairs, said yesterday.
Deputy National Police Commissioner Pol General Srivara Ransibrahmanakul, however, suggested the attacks were linked to the unrest that has raged through the southernmost region for more than a decade.
“In my opinion, the attacks were not related to national politics. With simultaneous attacks, it is quiet clear that the attackers must have been from a big gang,” he said.
Prawit said he had instructed the chiefs of armed forces and the Southern Border Provinces Police Operation Centre to look into the attacks and identify their motive.
According to the Forward Command of the Internal Security Operations Command’s Region 4, bomb blasts and tyre burning incidents occurred in 19 districts across four southernmost provinces.
The blasts damaged 52 electricity poles, causing blackouts in many areas of Pattani, Yala, Narathiwat and Songkhla provinces.
Colonel Pramote Prom-in, spokesman for the forward command, said tyres were also burned in many spots in the deep South on Thursday night.
His agency reported 31 coordinated attacks – 12 in Pattani, seven in Yala, nine in Narathiwat and three in Songkhla.
Officials said four attackers riding two motorcycles planted a bomb in front of Ban Pareh School in Pattani’s Mueang district, detonating it soon after, while a second unexploded bomb was found later.
Attackers also detonated three bombs and set tyres alight in front of a college in Nong Chik district and burned tyres and used explosives to damage utility poles in various locations in Yaran and Yarang districts.
The Provincial Electricity Authority spent about an hour restoring the power supply in the downtown area. The power lines in the other areas were to be repaired during the daytime.
In Yala, three power poles were damaged with home-made bombs, in the village of Joh Bantang and in Bannang Sata district. A power transformer in front of the Bannang Sata tambon office was torched and tyres and a power pole were set alight in three villages in Thanto district.
In Narathiwat, forward command said there were two bomb attacks in Sungai Kolok district, three in Tak Bai, two in Rusoh and one each in Waeng and Bacho districts.
In Songkhla the attackers torched tyres in front of a rubber plant in Chana district and burned down utility poles in two Saba Yoi district villages.
Following the incidents, territorial-defence volunteers carried out strict checks on vehicles in Songkhla’s Hat Yai district, the economic hub of the South.
Officials said security would be tightened in commercial zones until the end of Songkran to boost the confidence of Thai and foreign tourists.
The governments in Bangkok have struggled to contain violence in the deep South which has claimed more than 6,800 lives since early 2004.
No one specifically claimed responsibility, but it is widely believed that separatists orchestrated violence over identity and historical grievances as a vast majority of people in the region, which was annexed by Siam over a century ago, are Muslim Malayu.
Residents in the deep South rejected the charter draft in the August 7 referendum. Analysts said they disagreed over perceived religious discrimination as the charter gave too much favour to Buddhism.