NARATHIWAT – Four soldiers were killed and another four seriously injured while attempting to defuse a bomb at an army base in Thailand’s unrest-plagued south yesterday, police said.
The blast happened after troops moved the device, which was hidden in a gas tank and placed under a bridge, to a base in Narathiwat, one of several provinces in southern Thailand where a bloody nine-year insurgency has claimed thousands of lives.
“They were inspecting and defusing the civilian-made bomb” when it exploded, said local police lieutenant colonel Sanit Suwanno.
More than 5,500 people have been killed in Thailand’s south since 2004, with shadowy insurgent groups blamed for near-daily bombings and shootings.
Security personnel and those connected with the government are regularly targeted, as well as common people perceived to be collaborating with the authorities.
Thailand held its first official peace talks with southern insurgents at the end of March, during a one-day meeting with representatives of the Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN) in Malaysia’s capital Kuala Lumpur.
While talks were said to be cordial — and a further round was set for April 29 — attacks have continued in the region, leading to questions about the BRN’s influence.
The latest deaths come as more than 100 large banners denouncing the negotiations appeared strung near roads and other public places across the region.
National Security Council chief Paradorn Pattanatabut, who is heading negotiations, said those behind the banners “still believe that violence is the way,” and were sending a message to authorities that talks would not be successful without their agreement.
“We basically know who they are, because we can check the security cameras. They did it quite openly so we could see their faces,”