A shooting and two bomb attacks in Thailand’s Deep South killed three people and injured at least 20 others on Monday, ahead of an informal round of peace talks between the Thai government and local rebels expected later this week.
The latest fatalities brought to at least 35 the number of people killed in attacks by suspected rebels since Feb. 10, when Thai security forces raided a suspected insurgent hideout in Pattani, one of the provinces in the Deep South.
Two bombs rigged to motorcycles exploded simultaneously in two locations in Narathiwat province around midday, police said. The explosions killed one person, identified as 33-year-old Ruslan Da-o, and seriously injured 11 others including a 6-year-old girl, civilians, security volunteers and police, Narathiwat Police Maj. Gen. Patanawut Angkhanawin said.
Nine others were treated for minor injuries. Police examined security cameras and released a photo of the alleged perpetrators riding away from one of the bomb scenes, according to Patanawut.
Police released a photo of suspected bombers leaving the scene in Narathiawat province, April 25, 2016. [Courtesy of Narathiwat provincial police bureau]
In nearby Yala province, two rubber farmers, Hamdee Tolupoh and Unu Talae, were killed in a roadside shooting on Monday while transporting logs from Ban Mai, a tambon or village cluster, to Yala town. Police said the shooters used military-style weapons.
The two bombs were similar to bombs used in two earlier other bombings earlier this month, police said.
On April 11, a perpetrator dressed as a Muslim woman used a motorcycle bomb to kill a police officer and a 4-year-old Muslim boy in front of Jana Railway station in Songkhla province. On April 19, a bombing at a grocery store near Ban Ta Paed railway station killed one person and injured 18 others.
Thamrong Kirativirotekul, an owner of shop near where the first bomb went off on Monday, said he called police after noticing a suspicious person parking a motorcycle and leaving with someone on another motorbike. The bomb exploded a minute later, he said.
Doubts about peace talks
Violence linked to the conflict in the Deep South, a predominantly Muslim and Malay-speaking region, has claimed more than 6,500 lives since the insurgency flared up again in 2004.
Monday’s violence occurred in the run-up to informal, Malaysia-brokered peace talks that are expected to take place in Kuala Lumpur at an unannounced date this week. Thailand’s junta, which seized power in May 2014, has been trying to persuade various rebel groups and factions to reopen formal peace talks for the first time since December 2014, when a civilian-led government was in power.
Srisompob Jitpiromsri, director of regional think-tank Deep South Watch, expressed pessimism about the upcoming round of informal talks, following the removal of a key negotiator from the Thai delegation.
Last week, Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha said Army Lt. Gen. Nakrob Boonbuathong was removed from the negotiating team on which he had served since 2013 as part of a routine reassignment of duties.
“Nakrob was the man who clinched the terms of reference (ToR) that were agreed upon and accepted by both sides. Now he is not there and we don’t know whether any ToR contents were changed at all,” Srisompob told BenarNews.
“And if there were some changes, we don’t know if MARA Patani can accept that,” he said, referring to an umbrella body representing southern rebel groups at the negotiations table.