Thai peace negotiator: Rebel group responsible for attack in Deep South

Mariyam Ahmad and Muzliza Mustafa
Pattani, Thailand, and Kuala Lumpur
Thai peace negotiator: Rebel group responsible for attack in Deep South Soldiers inspect the site of an attack by insurgents on a marine police station in the Tak Bai district of Narathiwat province, southern Thailand, May 26, 2022.

Updated at 2:52 p.m. ET on 2022-08-21

BRN separatists carried out a dramatic attack along the Malaysian border last week that shattered a nearly two-month pause in violence in Thailand’s Deep South, a pro-insurgent Facebook page and a Thai government peace negotiator claimed.

Three Thai government security personnel were injured when more than 10 gunmen armed with assault rifles and grenades attacked a police station and a customs office in the Tak Bai district of Narathiwat province on May 25.

The lead negotiator representing Barisan Nasional Revolusi rebels in Malaysia-brokered peace talks with Thailand challenged Bangkok’s claim and questioned the validity of the social media post that his group was responsible for the raid.

“On the incident in Tak Bai, the BRN army launched attacks against the Siam military and destroyed cars. Thanks to God, with Allah’s grace, three Siam military personnel were injured, and their spirits shaken,” said a message posted on Facebook on Tuesday, referring to Thailand by its old name and the largest insurgent group in the mainly Muslim and Malay southern border region.

Thai military officials identified the poster as a BRN supporter.

On Wednesday, Lt. Gen. Thira Daehwa, who serves as the secretary for the panel representing Thailand in the peace talks, said he “could not believe that the BRN ignored the local people’s wish for peace and livelihood.”

“It is possible that the attack was meant to [the] ruin peace talks atmosphere and Ramadan peace,” Thira told BenarNews.

BRN lead negotiator Anas Abdulrahman said the Thai government assumed that his group was responsible for the attack.

“The Thai military has no evidence whatsoever to accuse BRN because no one declared that they are responsible for the Tak Bai incident,” Anas Abdulrahman told BenarNews.

“So the Thai military assumes that those with the capability and capacity to launch such an attack would be BRN, so they accused us. And the attack in Tak Bai will not affect the peace negotiation process because it happened after the Ramadhan Peace Initiative expired.”

Anas also noted the Facebook post was not on the BRN’s official page.

“Any official announcement will only be issued by the BRN central secretariat, BRN Information Bureau and BRN Negotiation Secretariat. BRN will not be responsible for any type of statements, media or announcements coming from any other medium or parties besides the ones mentioned here,” he said.

During the coordinated attack, the rebels hurled explosives and opened fire with automatic rifles at a marine police station on the Kolok River that separates Thailand from Malaysia, police said. The rebels also targeted a customs office and a convenience store.

The raid marked the biggest eruption of violence since the two sides agreed in early April to a truce to last through Ramadan. The truce expired May 14.

Lt. Gen. Kriangkrai Srirak, the commander of the 4th Army Region which oversees the Deep South, released details about the ongoing investigation on Wednesday.

“Regarding the Tak Bai incident, we have compiled evidence and done a forensic examination, which showed that the weapons used and bombs and pipe bombs were linked to insurgents. The spent shell forensics also showed the same links,” he told BenarNews.

Kriangkrai said the attackers attacked the marine police station because it was involved in recent crackdowns on illegal cross-border activities. He alleged that the suspected insurgents, who have not been identified, have ties to criminal syndicates involved in smuggling drugs and illegal goods across the frontier.

“We have to arrest the attackers. They – the affected trafficking syndicate and the insurgents – are linked. We have evidence, and we won’t let them go unpunished,” he said.

Malaysia has served as a facilitator of peace talks between the government and southern Thai rebels – most recently BRN. Facilitator Abdul Rahim Noor said more talks were scheduled for July.

Kriangkrai, the Thai regional army commander, said the attack would not affect efforts to bring peace to the Deep South.

“Peace talks will continue to allow people to have a better quality of life and safety to live a normal life,” he said.

The armed separatist movement in the Deep South against Buddhist-majority Thailand began in the 1960s. Since the insurgency reignited in January 2004, more than 7,000 people have been killed and 13,500 others in regional violence, according to Deep South Watch, a local think-tank.

Subel Rai Bhandari in Bangkok and Noah Lee in Kuala Lumpur contributed to this report.

CLARIFICATION: This report has been updated to clarify comments attributed to the chief negotiator for the BRN about its alleged role in the attack in Tak Bai.


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Mollie Emsley
Jun 06, 2022 11:51 PM

thank you for your truthful work