Insurgents suspected of landmine attack targeting rubber farmers in Deep South

Mariyam Ahmad
Pattani, Thailand
Insurgents suspected of landmine attack targeting rubber farmers in Deep South A Buddhist monk helps a farmer who was injured when a landmine exploded at a rubber plantation in Kok Ko, a village in Narathiwat province, southern Thailand, Aug. 15, 2022.
Official handout photo via BenarNews

Explosions from landmines killed a soldier and injured six police officers and four civilians in Thailand’s troubled Deep South on Monday, including a farmer who lost both her legs in the twin attack at a rubber plantation, authorities said.

About an hour after the first blast early in the morning in Sungai Padi, a district of Narathiwat province, a second landmine exploded as members of a bomb squad scoured the plantation in response to the earlier explosion. The blast killed a soldier and wounded at least six police officers. The injuries to the police were non-life threatening, officials said. 

Thai officials and residents also said that rubber farmer Prathum Nakthong, 55, was gravely injured in the first explosion when she stepped on a landmine about 500 meters from her house in Kok Ko, one of the communities in Tambon To Deng, a village cluster in the district.

“Mrs. Prathum had both her legs injured from stepping on a landmine planted under the ground in her rubber plantation. She had just finished her work and was returning home,” Capt. Panuwat Saidanil, a police investigator in Sungai Padi, told reporters.

In photos handed out by the authorities, a Buddhist monk and other neighbors could be seen helping the injured woman and carrying her as she was taken to a local hospital.

As of late Monday (local time), hospital officials told BenarNews that she remained in serious condition.

Sgt. Somchai Daeng-ngern, a soldier who was accompanying a bomb squad looking for and defusing landmines in the plantation, was killed on the spot in the second explosion, officials said.

“[They] were walking to investigate the area when another [landmine] went off some 300 meters away from the site of the first explosion, killing one soldier and injuring many others,” said police Lt. Col. Wasant Panpoth, a crime suppression officer at the Sungai Padi station.

The attack on Monday was the third deadly incident that Thai authorities blamed on rebels within the less than two weeks since Thai government negotiators and representatives of Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN), the main rebel group in the Deep South, held their latest round of in-person peace talks brokered by Malaysia near Kuala Lumpur.

During the latest round, the Thai side asked the BRN to agree to a pause in violence that would cover large portions of the Buddhist Lent, officials told BenarNews at the time. The start of the 108-day truce would have fallen on Monday. 

After the attack, a Buddhist rights activist called on security forces to safeguard Buddhist residents who form a religious minority in the Deep South. 

“So, the only way for safety is to leave their homes and move out of Tambon To Deng? The ISOC, please answer it,” said Busayamas Isdul, referring to the Internal Security Operations Command, the military command in the southern region.

“We, Buddhist Thais, want protection and to be taken care of. Such an attack is not the first time,” she told BenarNews. 

The Thai Deep South encompasses the provinces of Pattani, Yala, Narathiwat, and four districts of Songkhla province. More than 80 percent of the population are Malay-speaking Muslims, with the rest being Buddhists.  

The suspected attack by separatist insurgents in Sungai Padi was reminiscent of a series of landmine blasts in 2018 that injured several farmers over the course of eight days at rubber plantations in neighboring Yala province, and that authorities blamed on rebels. The rubber industry is one of the main economic drivers in the deeply impoverished Thai southern border region. 

BRN and PULO, another rebel group that was blamed for some recent attacks, did not respond immediately to requests for comments from BenarNews about Monday’s landmine explosions.

A Thai defense ministry spokesman, meanwhile, said authorities were going after the attackers, accusing the insurgents of increasing violence since the latest talks ended in early August.   

“There has been more violence – an ambush and bomb attacks – killing at least five people and injuring seven others. There was an ambush on a train. [Such incidents] have continuously caused a climate of fears,” Gen. Kongcheep Tantrawanich, the spokesman, told reporters.  

“The prime minister has ordered the forces to catch the assailants as soon as possible.”


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