A 4-year-old girl and her father were among three killed when a motorcycle-bomb exploded across the street from a school in Thailand’s troubled Deep South on Tuesday morning, authorities said.
In a highly unusual move later in the day, a member of Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN) – the largest armed separatist group operating in the region – told BenarNews that his combat unit had carried out the attack in Narathiwat province’s Tak Bai district, as well as recent deadly bombings in the Deep South and at tourist sites in provinces farther north.
“We claim that the attack in Tak Bai district was the act of our operation, as well as the train bombing and those attacks in the seven upper southern provinces too,” said the leader of a BRN combat unit known as Runda Kumpulan Kecil (RKK), who asked not to be named.
He was referring to the bombing of a train that killed a railway worker in Pattani – another Deep South province – on Saturday, and 11 bombings that killed four and wounded dozens at sites in Thailand’s upper south on Aug. 11-12. Twelve days later, a car-bomb went off outside a hotel in Pattani town, killing two people and injuring 38.
The RKK, according to the source, was also responsible for a car-bomb that was defused outside a police station in Narathiwat on Friday morning – the very day that the Thai government resumed informal peace talks in Kuala Lumpur with MARA Patani, a panel representing various rebel groups and factions in the Deep South, after a four-month hiatus.
The BRN is represented on the panel but its membership has been divided over pursing formal peace talks with Thailand’s military government.
“We want to respond to the talks that made no progress …,” the RKK leader said, adding. “[T]he government does not show their sincerity for a real peace.”
He said his unit did not intend to kill civilians but was targeting police officers.
Thai police have pinned suspicion for the upper south bombings on at least 20 suspects from the Deep South, but officials said those attacks did not represent a widening of the regional insurgency that has killed more than 6,000 people since 2004.
The rebel groups from the Deep South rarely, if ever, claim responsibility for roadside bombings or shootings in the predominantly Muslim and Malay-speaking region.
Attack not related to talks, upper south blasts: officials
The explosion near the Ban Taba primary school took place as parents were escorting their children to the schoolhouse.
The blast killed Mayeng Wohba and his daughter, Mitra Wohba, authorities said.
A 23-year-old civilian, Talmese Mada-o, was also killed and nine others were wounded, including four officials, according to the Thai army’s Internal Security Operations Command (ISOC).
The 20-kilo (44-pound) bomb was inside a gas cylinder rigged to the front basket of the motorcycle, which was parked in front of a shop opposite the entrance to the school, ISOC officials said. The perpetrators had stolen the bike from its owner, who was shot dead in Tak Bai on June 19, officials said.
Col. Yuthanam Petchmuang, a deputy spokesman for the forward office of ISOC’s regional headquarters, said insurgents were suspected of being behind the attack, but “it was not related to the attacks in the seven upper southern provinces and the peace talks.”
According to Krisana Yuangsa-ard, commander of the army’s 31st special unit in Narathiwat, the group that carried out Tuesday’s bombing was led by an insurgent known as Romli Jehyi.
“Our authorities have been tracking down their criminal operations, but did not expect that the criminals would plan a motorcycle bomb in front of the shop opposite the school,” Krisana told reporters.