Coordinated bombings, arson attacks hit Thai south

Mariyam Ahmad
Pattani, Thailand
Coordinated bombings, arson attacks hit Thai south A store selling electrical appliances and household goods in Yala city was one of the buildings damaged in arson attacks on March 22, 2024.
Handout/Thai police

UPDATED at 9:19 a.m. ET on 2024-03-25

Insurgents in Thailand’s restive Deep South carried out a wave of coordinated bombings and arson attacks targeting more than 40 properties overnight, killing a migrant worker from Myanmar, military officials said Friday.

The attacks, which struck in four provinces, were likely an attempt by a new militant faction to undermine efforts to reduce tensions in the Muslim-majority region during Ramadan, according to Lt. Gen. Santi Sakuntanark, the army commander for the southern region.

“The perpetrators aimed to create disturbances during Ramadan, but did not intend to harm people,” Santi told reporters on Friday.

He said the sole fatality occurred when a female construction worker from Myanmar was struck by shrapnel from a bombing at a gas station in Mayo district.

The Thai military’s Internal Security Operations Command reported 11 incidents in Yala, 20 in Pattani, seven in Narathiwat and two in Songkhla.

For decades, separatists have been fighting for independence in Thailand’s predominantly Muslim and Malay-speaking southern border provinces.

Since the insurgency reignited in January 2004, more than 7,540 people have been killed and more than 14,000 injured in violence in the region, according to Deep South Watch, a local think-tank.

In response to the attacks, Prime Minister Setha Thavisin expressed concern for the wellbeing of citizens in the region and ordered Lt. Gen. Kittirat Panphet, the acting national police chief, to immediately address the situation.

The unrest began around 1 a.m. on Friday with arson attacks on private buildings, government property and CCTV cameras across six districts in Narathiwat province, military officials said.

There were no reported fatalities, but a police officer was injured when he was clipped by a pickup truck that drove through a checkpoint without stopping for inspection. 

Several districts in Pattani province were also struck by bombings and arson attacks, with insurgents targeting convenience stores, private buildings, government properties and telephone poles.

Similar arson attacks were carried out in Yala and Songkhla provinces, authorities said. In Yala’s Muang district insurgents captured and bound two security guards, but no injuries were reported.

“Around one in the morning, villagers were shouting ‘fire, fire,’ the flames were terrifying, and there were explosions from the fire,” Ismael, who witnessed the aftermath of an arson attack in Bannang Sata District in Yala, told BenarNews.

“Fortunately, no one was hurt. Villagers helped to remove valuables from the scene. We don’t know who did it.”

Barisan Revolusi Nasional rebels, the main insurgent group in the Thai Deep South, and Srettha’s government resumed peace talks in February and discussed a ceasefire over the Muslim holy month Ramadan, which started on March 11, but the insurgents did not agree to it.

and agreed to a ceasefire over the Muslim holy month Ramadan, which started on March 11.

But this week’s attacks expose how far apart the Thai government and insurgent groups remain, said human rights activist Anchana Heemmina, who is a member of the Thai House of Representatives’ Special Committee on Southern Border Peace.

“This could be interpreted as a response timed with the 20th anniversary of the Tak Bai incident and a counteraction to the extrajudicial killings on March 14,” she told BenarNews.

The Tak Bai incident in 2004 remains one of the most deadly events in the decades-long conflict between Malay-Muslims and the Thai state, in which dozens of Muslim protesters suffocated while being transported in army trucks or were shot by security forces.

More recently, a joint police and military operation on March 14 to arrest two suspected insurgents in Pattani province resulted in both being killed, sparking criticism from locals and civil society groups that security forces were not sincere about ending violence.

CORRECTION: An early version of this report incorrectly stated that BRN and Thai negotiators had agreed to a Ramadan truce.


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