PATTANI – Thailand’s three southern provinces were hit by coordinated arson and bombing attacks on Friday, leaving one security officer dead, police said.
The country’s top security agency and the Thai army said they suspect that a Muslim rebel group, under the main Barisan Revolusi National independence movement, was behind the attacks, despite efforts by Thai authorities to get it to agree to a violence-free month of Ramadan. Last week, in two separate incidents, nine people – including teachers and state employees – were killed in bombings and drive-by shootings. In the past two days alone, there were 13 attacks that killed 3 soldiers and injured 20 people.
BRN is one of the separatist groups that have been seeking a separate state in southernmost provinces of Thailand, including Yala, Patttani and Narathiwat. The three provinces share cultural and religious affinity with Malaysia and have never been fully integrated into the rest of Buddhist-majority Thailand. There have been waves of uprisings against the Thai authorities since the three provinces were annexed by Bangkok. In the recent round of attacks since 2004, more than 5,000 people have been killed.
No one has claimed responsibility for the recent spate of attacks.
In Friday’s incidents, 13 attacks, including arson and bombings, took place in the provinces of Yala, Pattani and Songkla, said Col. Pramote Promin, spokesman for the Thai Army’s Region 4 Internal Security Operations Command. In addition to the security officer killed, four people were injured.
The first attack was around 3 am Friday in Yala province when insurgents set fire to factories, rubber plants and a transmission tower, Yala police said. In Yaha district, a bomb was detonated as rangers were on morning patrol, killing the head officer.
In Pattani, fires were set at a motorcycle distribution company, a convenient store next to Khok Po police station and a clothing store, Pattani police said. Two people were injured from the fires and about 60 motorcycles were damaged, police said.
The attacks also spilled over to nearby Songkla province, where a furniture warehouse and some villager homes were burned.
“These incidents are aimed to instigate chaos,” said Lt. Gen. Paradorn Pattanatabut, secretary-general of Thailand’s National Security Council. “They are enough to make an impact in the areas that have been under attack.”
Lt. Gen. Paradon said he suspects that a group under the BRN rebel group was behind the attacks, although the group pledged through Malaysian peace facilitator last month to cease violence during Ramadan, a traditional time in the Muslim world to put aside conflict.
Ramadan began on July 10 this year.
“Overall the number of attacks during the Ramadan period dropped about 39% and the loss of lives went down 37%, compared with the Ramadan period last year,” said Col. Pramote. “But some groups still want to create incidents that will incite distrust and chaos.”
The last 10 days before the Ramadan period often sees an increased number attacks, Col. Pramote said, and the Thai securities are fully on alert.
The Thai authorities have been negotiating with the BRN group in Malaysia for several months to bring try to bring peace to the predominantly Muslim, Malay-speaking southern Thailand. Targets of the attacks include soldiers, government officials, teachers and Buddhist monks. Some Muslims perceived as collaborating with Thai authorities have also been targeted for assassination.
The Thai authorities are investigating and collecting information to present to Malaysia, which is acting as a facilitator, when Ramadan is over on Aug. 18, said Lt. Gen. Paradon. By Nopparat Chaichalearmmongkol