Three policemen and three civilians were injured Friday in roadside bombing in Yala province, authorities said, a week after suspected insurgents killed two Buddhist monks and wounded two other clerics at a temple in Thailand’s mainly Muslim Deep South.
Suspected insurgents planted a bomb at a lamppost and set it off as a police patrol passed by, Lt. Capt. Pongsak Khaonual of the Krong Pinang district police station, told reporters.
The attack was the latest in a spate of violent incidents to grip Thailand’s troubled southern border region since Jan. 1, but the first to take place since the monks were gunned down at their monastery in neighboring Narathiwat province seven days earlier.
“From an investigation, there were six policemen on two motorcycles and a pickup truck patrolling the street for security of teachers and students at Ban Talo Sumae School. A bomb was remotely detonated when they reached the scene,” Pongsak told reporters. “It was an improvised explosive device, weighing about 10 kg (22 pounds), hidden at a lamppost.”
He said the three police, two adult civilians and a girl were slightly injured and rushed to Krong Pinang hospital.
Police and the military compiled footage from security cameras to try to identify the assailants, Yala Police Bureau Commander Maj. Gen. Krisada Kaewchandee said.
Since the new year began, at least 16 have been killed and 20 injured in the region, according to BenarNews figures from police and military reports.
The Deep South borders Malaysia and encompasses Pattani, Narathiwat and Yala provinces as well as four districts in Songkhla province. Nearly 7,000 people have been killed in the region since the insurgency flared up in early 2004.
Efforts by the government and MARA Patani, an umbrella group representing insurgent groups in the region, have held unsuccessful peace talks in the region since 2015. Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN), the largest and most powerful militant group in the Deep South, has not participated.
The Jan. 18 attack on Ratananupab Temple in Narathiwat province, which resulted in the deaths of the abbot and his deputy, created tension between the region’s Buddhist and Muslim communities.
On Monday, Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha issued a statement saying insurgents carried off the attack to get authorities to use brute force to suppress them and draw international attention.
Two days later, a man who identified himself only as Dr. Fakis and who said he represented BRN, refuted Prayuth’s statement.
“In reality I don’t know who did the attack, but BRN certainly didn’t. This is the trick of the colonist to create rift among Malays and tell the international community that the BRN is a terror group,” Fakis said.
Despite that denial, New York-based Human Rights Watch and a Deep South expert, blamed militants for the attack.
“Separatist insurgents in Thailand’s southern border provinces killed two Buddhist monks in an unlawful assault on a temple. The deliberate attack on civilians and a place of worship is a war crime,” HRW said in a statement on Jan 19.
Srisompob Jitpiromsri, director of Deep South Watch, a local think-tank, agreed with the HRW’s condemnation, saying BRN reacted violently to respond to pressure from Thai and Malaysian officials. The Malaysian government has served as a broker in peace talks between the Thai government and rebels in the Deep South, and last year appointed Abdul Rahim Noor as its new faciliator for the negotiations.
“The facilitator played a role in pushing BRN to join the talks and this may cause BRN to resort to violence,” Srisompob told BenarNews. “The BRN has operative cells, combatants and is adaptive to new tactics.
“What worrisome is that the BRN aimed at soft targets because it makes an impact although the attack is prone to condemnation. It’s not surprising to hear reports that the BRN refused its role in the attacks.”