Violent Day in Thai Deep South Claims Highest Toll in September

Matahari Ismail and Mariyam Ahmad
Narathiwat, Thailand
Violent Day in Thai Deep South Claims Highest Toll in September Thai investigators check the scene of a roadside bombing that flipped a police cruiser into a ditch in Chanae, a district of southern Thailand’s Narathiwat province, Sept. 28, 2022.

At least three government personnel and a suspected insurgent were killed Tuesday in separate incidents in Narathiwat, government officials said, in the single bloodiest day in Thailand’s Deep South since separatist rebels renewed a call to arms in early September.

Those killed included a soldier and a suspected separatist rebel who died during a shootout in Bacho district, while two policemen were killed in a roadside bombing that injured four other police officers in Chanae district, officials said.

The first incident took place before noon as military and police forces were attempting to arrest suspected insurgents in Hutaelueyo village in Bacho after receiving a tip, the chief of Narathiwat provincial police said.

“As they arrived at the site, they clashed with five to six bandits for quite a while before returning to normal. [Officer] Wattachak Promniu was shot in the chest and lung and died at a hospital,” police Maj. Gen. Narin Busaman told reporters.

“One bandit was also killed.”      

Hours later in Chanae, an adjoining district, an improvised explosive device aimed at police patrol cars blew up, killing and injuring officers as they drove by, according to police and military officials who did not say how the device was detonated.

Senior military officials blamed insurgents for the killings.

“The insurgents continued to find opportunities for attacks and there were more incidents,” Col. Kiatisak Neewong, the spokesman for the military’s regional command (ISOC-4), told reporters.

“Eight members of a combat team were driving in two cars when the attackers set off a bomb, tipping one of the cars, killing two and injuring four.”

Tuesday’s attacks were the deadliest since Sept. 6, when a message linked to Barisan Revolusi Nasional (the National Revolotionary Front or BRN), the largest of armed insurgent groups in the region known as the Thai Deep South, was posted on Facebook. It appeared to urge combatants to “resume self-defense operations” because, the message said, “Siam’s security forces set up raids and conducted summary executions despite COVID difficulties.”

A combatant and analysts confirmed that the page was linked to the rebels.

Despite the confirmations, Kiatisak questioned whether the page represented the militant group.

“I am not sure about the authenticity of the page which announced readiness to fight. It said something along those lines,” he told BenarNews back on Sept. 7.

“Anyway, they always try to find an opportunity for violence including throwing pipe bombs,” Kiatisak said then. He pointed out that the bombs had been coming from the same source but he did not release details.

On Sept. 7, a civilian was killed and the administration office of a local village cluster (tambon) was torched. More recently, a soldier was killed and his comrade injured on Sept. 22 while a deputy village headman was killed and a former serviceman was severely injured on Sept. 24.

In April 2020, the BRN had declared a unilateral ceasefire to allow Thai health workers to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. Since then, at least 14 insurgents were killed in clashes across the Deep South, beginning in October 2020, Kiatisak told BenarNews.

The ceasefire was announced a month after face-to-face peace talks between the Thai government and BRN leaders stalled because of the pandemic. But both sides said they continued to meet online through technical-level panels, with neighboring Malaysia serving as facilitator.

The last virtual meeting occurred in February, Abdul Rahim Noor, the Malaysian broker of the talks, confirmed to BenarNews at the time.

Since the decades-old separatist insurgency reignited in January 2004, more than 7,000 people have been killed in the mainly Muslim and Malay-speaking border region, according to Deep South Watch, a think-tank based in Pattani, one of the provinces there.


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