Suspected insurgents detonated eight pipe bombs that injured at least nine people in Thailand’s troubled Deep South on Sunday, including two police officers, investigators said.
There were no immediate claims of responsibility for the bombings that took place in six locations in Pattani province, but local officials said they believed that Malay-speaking separatist insurgents were behind the blasts.
“Today’s attacks were carried out by the minority within an insurgent group who don’t understand us,” Olarn Bilson, the chief officer of Yarang district in Pattani, told reporters. Olarn did not explain the basis for his allegations.
Sunday’s explosions occurred three weeks after suspected insurgents killed three civilians and injured 28 other people in a bomb attack at the busy Pimonchai market in Yala, a neighboring province in the Deep South province, about 1,072 km (670 miles) from the Thai capital Bangkok.
Officials said two bombs went off at dawn Sunday after a police investigator in Pattani’s Sai Buri district said he had received reports that six bombs were found in separate locations, including at a Muslim cemetery.
“Officials found pipe bombs and managed to destroy four of them; two went off but caused no injuries or deaths,” police Capt. Chavalit Artteng told BenarNews.
But six people, including two police officers, were wounded when three improvised explosive devices (IEDs) went off in three areas in Yaring district, Capt. Pawich Krachangsri told reporters.
The two officers suffered shrapnel wounds when one bomb exploded as they were investigating the scene of the first blast, he said.
Three people were also slightly injured when another IED exploded at a night market in Yarang, police Lt. Wicha Nupannoy told BenarNews. Two more bombs exploded separately in the district, but caused no injuries or deaths, he said.
Nearly 50 incidents in 2018
Since the start of the new year, including Sunday’s blasts, 26 people have been killed in 49 shooting and bomb attacks in the Deep South, according to statistics that BenarNews compiled from military and police reports.
It’s not clear if all the attacks were insurgency-related, because officials do not distinguish rebel-related violence from acts of personal vendettas in their reports.
Apart from the separatist insurgency that has dragged on for decades in the predominantly Muslim southern border region, the Deep South is notorious for criminal activity.
The region – composed of the provinces of Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat – has been plagued by a long-running separatist insurgency as ethnic Malay guerillas battle Thai troops for more autonomy from Buddhist-majority Thailand’s rule.
Between October 2016 and September 2017, as many as 233 soldiers, policemen and defense volunteers were killed in roadside bombings and other types of ambuscades in the Deep South, according to Thailand’s Internal Security Operations Command (ISOC). Officials blamed insurgents for most of the attacks.
Overall almost 7,000 people, including civilians, have been killed and 15,000 injured in violence associated with the insurgency since 2004.
During the past three years, the Thai junta has engaged various rebel groups in the south in peace talks brokered by neighboring Malaysia, but rebel attacks have persisted and the two sides have yet to agree to a limited ceasefire.