Thailand: 2 Soldiers Killed, 1 Injured in Deep South Attack

Matahari Ismail and Mariyam Ahmad
Narathiwat and Pattani, Thailand
2021-02-25
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Thailand: 2 Soldiers Killed, 1 Injured in Deep South Attack Rescue workers carry the body of a dead soldier out of a jungle in Ra-ngae, a district in Narathiwat province in Thailand, Feb. 25, 2021.
BenarNews

Thai security forces were hunting for suspected armed separatist insurgents who killed two soldiers and injured another during an attack Thursday on a makeshift military camp in the mountains of Ra-ngae, a district of Narathiwat province, authorities said.

This was the first incident with casualties in Thailand’s southern region along the Malaysia border since two soldiers were wounded in a roadside bomb explosion set off by suspected rebels on Feb. 13.

Malaysia since January 2020 has been brokering peace talks between the Thai government and Barisan Revolusi Nasional (National Liberation Front, or BRN), the largest of the rebel groups, but those negotiations have gone online since being disrupted by the coronavirus outbreak last year.

Col. Chanathip Thongchiew, the commander of the 45th Ranger Task Force in Thailand’s Deep South, said a team of 16 people from his unit had been tasked with tracking a group of insurgents who were recently spotted near the Tawe mountain range.

“The 16 men trekked on foot and camped at the site before dusk yesterday with a plan to launch a man-hunt operation on Thursday, but the insurgents were able to spot their movement first,” Chanathip told reporters.

“The insurgents attacked them with homemade hand grenades, followed by a barrage of gunfire from M-16s and shotguns – they shot at every tent. The soldiers returned fire for about 15 minutes before the attackers retreated,” Chanathip said.

“Two soldiers were killed and another was seriously injured.”

Chanathip did not say how many insurgents were involved but noted that they were able to snatch two rifles and a shotgun from the soldiers before fleeing.

He said the insurgents were led by a militant identified as Abdullah Bulla, but did not release details about him.

The soldiers who pursued the insurgents after the attack found traces of blood on a trail to the Tawe mountain range but were not able to track down their attackers, he said. 

This year, at least five civilians and government officials were killed and 21 were injured in attacks by suspected rebels, according to police reports gathered by BenarNews.

The Deep South encompasses Pattani, Narathiwat, Yala provinces and four districts of Songkhla province. Since an insurgency reignited in January 2004, more than 7,000 people have been killed in violence across the region, according to Deep South Watch, a think-tank based in Pattani.

Peace talk efforts

Earlier this month, BRN and Thai officials held an online meeting to further peace efforts, Thai negotiators and Malaysian facilitator Abdul Rahim bin Mohammad Noor confirmed.

BRN had held direct peace talks with the government’s team in January and March last year, facilitated by Rahim Noor.

Those talks were disrupted by travel restrictions on both countries because of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to BRN representatives and Thai officials.

In Bangkok, Thai government officials issued a statement announcing the Feb. 3 technical-level talks, that is, talks without the full delegations.

“Thailand’s technical-level peace talk team had a teleconference with the representatives of the BRN with Tan Sri Abdul Rahim bin Mohammad Noor being a facilitator,” said the Secretariat Office for the Peace-Talk Dialogue Panel, which is under the National Security Council.

Since then, a BRN representative, identified by Thai security officials as Acan Wahid, appeared on YouTube channel Diaspora Patani on Feb. 15 to confirm that technical teams were holding virtual discussions to set up a future full-scale meeting when the pandemic eases.

“Even though a face-to-face meeting cannot be conducted, the discussion continues through messages and letters,” Wahid said.

“The facilitator team tried to set up a third-round [face-to-face] discussion, but it has yet to materialize because the pandemic is not easing and most of the country’s borders are still closed.”

Rahim Noor did not immediately respond to a BenarNews request for information about potential upcoming meetings.

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