Four civilians were among 10 people injured in a bombing in Pattani province Wednesday, a day after a soldier died in a similar blast that targeted troops in Thailand’s insurgency-hit Deep South, authorities said.
The bombings were the first to strike the southern border region on back-to-back days since before Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN) rebels declared a unilateral ceasefire in early April amid the coronavirus outbreak, although deadly shootings linked to the insurgents have occurred since then.
Wednesday’s attack occurred at 5:30 p.m. when a patrol squad assigned to the 42nd Ranger Task Force arrived at Bang Maruad village, said Police Col. Lieb Promchan, chief of the station in Pana-re district.
“From our investigation, the squad was patrolling the areas to keep the peace when the bomb was set off,” Lieb told reporters. “[We] believe insurgents were responsible for the attack, aimed at stirring up the otherwise calm situation.”
Lieb said six soldiers and a family of four, including two children, were injured. Other officials said the family members suffered minor bruises.
On Tuesday, a blast in nearby Mae Lan district killed one of six soldiers on patrol, according to officials who said it was the first fatal bombing since a COVID-19-related ceasefire began in the Deep South on April 3.
An analyst with a regional think-tank alleged that members of BRN, the border region’s most powerful insurgent group, carried out the attacks to make their presence known. BRN began direct negotiations for peace with a government team earlier this year, but the COVID-19 pandemic led to a pause.
Meanwhile, Col. Watcharagorn On-ngern, deputy spokesman for the military’s regional command (ISOC-4), told reporters that two of the soldiers struck by shrapnel on Wednesday were in serious condition at Pattani Hospital.
“From the inspection of the site, we found the traces of IED buried next to a cement column on Route 4157 in Bang Maruad village, which injured the servicemen on motorcycles,” Watcharagorn said of the Wednesday blast.
“Cpl. Supoj Charoensuk, 37, was hit with shrapnel in his face and left side of his head, while Ranger Suchart Koblam was struck in his face, left shoulder and left leg,” he said.
On Tuesday, the first bombing killed one soldier, Mujalin Srikaew, in Mae Lan, another district in Pattani, according to officials. Authorities said suspected insurgents used a remotely detonated homemade bomb to attack the soldiers patrolling in the district, but that the other soldiers were not injured.
Srisompob Jitpiromsri, director of the NGO Deep South Watch, blamed BRN for the attacks.
“The attack could happen at any time in the region, depending on good timing. I believe the BRN still wants to mount attacks in order to show that they exist,” he told BenarNews.
Despite this, Srisompob expected BRN to work with government negotiators to bring peace to the region.
“In the next couple of years, I believe they will try to solve the issue by peaceful means,” he said.
The government’s chief negotiator, Gen. Wanlop Rugsanaoh, previously said he anticipated meeting with the BRN team next month in Kuala Lumpur if travel restrictions with Malaysia were lifted.
A Malaysian government representative has served as a facilitator for talks involving BRN and previous ones involving MARA Patani, a panel grouping together different rebel organizations and factions in the Deep South.
In the months since the BRN-declared ceasefire, at least 17 people including five insurgents were killed and 49 injured in incidents of violence, according to police and military reports compiled by BenarNews.
In 2004, Malay-speaking rebels in the Muslim-majority provinces of Pattani, Yala, Narathiwat and four districts in Songkhla province reignited an insurgency against Thai security forces and soft targets over their demand for an independent state. More than 7,000 people have been killed since then, according to Deep South Watch.