Thailand's South Hit by Wave of Arson 08/17 06:06
HAT YAI, Thailand (AP) -- A wave of arson and bombing attacks overnight hit
Thailand's southernmost provinces, which for almost two decades have been the
scene of an active Muslim separatist insurgency, officials said Wednesday.
At least 17 attacks occurred Tuesday night in Pattani, Narathiwat and Yala
provinces, mostly at convenience stores and gas stations, military spokesperson
Pramote Promin said. Three civilians were reported injured. There have been no
claims of responsibility.
More than 7,300 people have been killed since the insurgency began in 2004
in the three provinces, the only ones with Muslim majorities in
Buddhist-dominated Thailand. Attacks have also taken place in neighboring
Muslim residents have long charged they are treated like second-class
citizens in Thailand, and separatist movements have been periodically active
for decades. Heavy-handed crackdowns have fueled the discontent.
The attacks are the most high-profile ones since early April, when the Thai
government and BRN -- Barisan Revolusi Nasional Melayu Patani, believed to be
the biggest of several insurgent groups-- agreed to halt violence during the
Muslim holy period of Ramadan. In other violence since then, two Thai army
ordnance experts on duty were killed by a bomb later that month.
Pramote said the attackers Tuesday night "dressed up as women, using
motorcycles and in many cases using petrol bombs, throwing them into the target
"It is clear that the insurgents remain committed to using violence on
people, damaging confidence in the economy, creating uncertainty and
undermining the government system," he said.
Police Capt. Sarayuth Kotchawong said he received a report shortly before
midnight that a suspect had entered a convenience store at a gas station in
Yala's Yaha district, placed a black bag inside and warned employees to leave
if they "do not want die." The workers left before the bag exploded 10 minutes
The various southern insurgent groups have not issued a consensus demand.
They are a shadowy mix of veteran separatists and often loosely led groups of
violent young militants. Their goals range from greater autonomy to
independence, with little indication they are related to jihadist movements in
other Southeast Asian countries, such as Indonesia and the Philippines.
Peace talks have been ongoing for several years under the auspices of the
Malaysian government between Thai officials and Mara Patani, an umbrella body
representing several insurgent groups. In January 2020, Thai officials held
their first formal meeting in years with BRN representatives.
Although BRN is considered the most influential of the separatist groups,
local members operate with some autonomy. They generally stage hit-and-run
attacks, such as drive-by shootings and ambushes with roadside bombs. They are
also known for occasional coordinated attacks when seeking to make a political
point with a show of strength.
There has been occasional large-scale bloodletting. In November 2019, gunmen
killed 15 village defense volunteers and wounded five security personnel in
what was believed to be the deadliest attack on government forces since the
separatist rebellion began.