16 July 2018

Bombings rock Thailand’s south

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A series of attacks and bombings have rocked Thailand’s insurgency-plagued south overnight, leaving a soldier and two civilians dead and three other people injured.

Pattani province’s main radio station reported Thursday that 10 violent incidents -- including drive-by shootings, bombings, destruction of utility poles and burning of tires -- took place in seven districts in Thailand’s three southernmost majority Muslim provinces and nearby Songkhla.

In one attack, men riding a motorcycle shot at a military checkpoint in Muang district, killing one soldier.

In Thepa district of Songkhla, a bomb was thrown in front of a branch of the Government Savings Bank, injuring three civilians.

In neighboring Jana district, a group of men shot at security guards working in a car sales office, killing two of them.

Violence in the region has been intensifying since late last month.

On Oct. 24, a bomb exploded near a noodle shop in Pattani, killing a 60-year-old woman and injuring 21 other people.

On Oct. 28, two men riding a motorcycle shot at a car in front of an education office in Mayo district of Pattani, killing a 49-year-old female teacher who was driving the vehicle and injuring a passenger, a female civil servant.

The two attackers, who were captured on security cameras, left a note near the car, with the words "for you who killed Malayu people" -- using a local term that refers to ethnic Malay Muslims.

The attack was condemned as a "severe violation of human rights" in a joint statement released by the Internal Security Operational Command (ISOC), the main domestic security agency, and the National Human Rights Commission.

The southern insurgency -- which has destabilized the three southernmost provinces of Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat for decades -- is rooted in a century-old ethno-cultural conflict between Malay Muslims living in the region and the Thai central state where Buddhism is considered the de-facto national religion.

Armed insurgent groups were formed in the 1960s after the then-military dictatorship tried to interfere in Islamic schools, but the insurgency faded in the 1990s.

In 2004, a rejuvenated armed movement -- composed of numerous local cells of fighters loosely grouped around the National Revolutionary Front, or BRN -- emerged.

After the military seized power in May 2014, the junta continued the overthrown elected civilian government’s policy of holding peace talks with insurgent groups.

But a recent report on the Thai south by the International Crisis Group, a Brussels-based think tank, regarded this dialogue as having "foundered" because both sides "prefer hostilities to compromise".

"The National Council for Peace and Order [NCPO], which seized power in the 2014 coup, professes to support dialogue to end the insurgency but avoids commitment," the report said, referring to the ruling junta by its official name.

2016.11.03 / 12:19
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