Flurry of Attacks in Thai Deep South Kills 3, Injures 4

BenarNews staff
Pattani, Thailand
161103-TH-deepsouth-620.jpg Police inspect a gas station in Ban Don Yang, in Pattani province’s Nong Chik district, after it was gutted in an attack the night before, Nov. 3, 2016.
Photo: Benar

Suspected insurgents killed three and injured four in a spate of overnight attacks across Thailand’s Deep South, hours after a new government task force for the region made its debut there.

Southern rebels were believed to be behind the 17 attacks Wednesday night and Thursday morning in three provinces of the Deep South and involved shootings, bombings and acts of arson, officials said.  A soldier at a military outpost in Pattani province and two private security guards at a car showroom in Songkhla province were killed. Among soft targets, a gas station and attached 7-Eleven convenience store were bombed and set on fire, according to local authorities.

The flurry of attacks was the most intense to strike the region in recent weeks, and came days after a Thai delegation called on negotiators from the rebel side, during exploratory peace talks in Kuala Lumpur, to refrain from violence for one year as Thailand mourns King Bhumibol Adulyadej. At the end of the last round of negotiations, a spokesman for a panel representing southern rebel groups and factions told BenarNews that they had “not agreed on anything.”

The latest attacks brought to 21 the number of people who have died in shootings and other acts of violence in the predominantly Muslim Deep South since early September.

These attacks followed soon after the Thai junta’s so-called “forward cabinet” for the Deep South met Wednesday for the first time with local Muslim and Buddhist leaders, as well as military officials and administrative officials from across the region.

“The causes of the violence are being scrutinized... There was no indicator that the violence was due to the first visit to Deep South of the government’s special delegation,” Col. Peerawit Saengthong, spokesman for the Internal Security Operations Command (ISOC) in Bangkok, told reporters on Thursday.

The 13-member cabinet is made up of civilians, ex-military and police officers. It was appointed last month by Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha and tasked with reporting back to him on matters relating to the Deep South, and serving as a direct link between him and provincial-level governments, regional agencies, the regional military command and other institutions there.

The panel includes Gen. Aksara Kerdpol, the head of the Thai delegation that has been trying since last year to reopen formal peace talks with southern rebels for the first time since late 2013. During the past 12 years, more than 6,700 people have died in violence associated with the separatist conflict, according to regional think-tank Deep South Watch.

“I confirmed that [the forward cabinet] will coordinate with agencies on the ground and the central government in order to push forward our work at a quicker pace. We do not have authority to command anyone,” Deputy Defense Minister Gen. Udomdej Sitabutr, who leads the cabinet, said after its first meeting at Fort Suriyothai in Pattani, where it is based.

‘Saddened and disturbed’

Ten of the overnight attacks occurred in Pattani, officials said. Among the fatalities, Pvt. Noppon Kaewpetch was shot dead while on duty at the outpost in Muang district.

In Nong Chik district in Pattani, a policemen was injured when suspected rebels bombed and set a fast station ablaze at around 10 p.m. Wednesday.

According to Col. Pathompong Petchpinun, the police chief in Nong Chik, the leader of an insurgent group, identified as Seree Waemamu, was suspected of taking part in the attack on the gas station and convenience store.

“More than 10 assailants came in a truck, burning a 7-Eleven outlet and planting bombs,” he told BenarNews.

In Songkhla, three others were injured when assailants set off bombs at an ATM outside a government-run savings bank in Thepa district.

In Chana district, the two guards were killed after assailants set fire to the showroom at an Isuzu dealership on Wednesday night, according to the store’s manager.

“One died in the office and another died outside of the showroom. The second one was shot multiple times. We did not know if they had arguments with the assailants or not, but they had no weapons,” Anusart Suwanmongkol, the showroom’s manager, who also is a secretary of the National Legislative Assembly, told BenarNews on Thursday.

He identified the dead guards as Sunya Smankarndee and Dolmalek Leeteh.

On Thursday, the head of the Islamic Committee of Songkhla condemned the attack.

“Muslim communities in Chana district are saddened and disturbed by the violent incidents. We express our strong opposition to the use of violence to destroy the life and properties of the innocents,” committee chairman Sakriya Bilsaela told BenarNews


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