Security boosted on roads to Hat Yai

4 suspected guerrillas hunted in Songkhla

Officers have tightened security on roads linking four outer districts of Songkhla to Hat Yai district to deter attempts to bring car bombs to downtown areas.

Opposition leader Abhisit Vejjajiva visits Ban Ku Wing school in Pattani’s Mayo district after one of its buildings was set ablaze in an arson attack on Aug 1. PAREZ LOHASANT

Many checkpoints have been set up on roads in tambon Na Thap and tambon Khlong Pia in Chana district and other routes, including the Asia Highway, which links Chana, Thepha, Na Thawi and Saba Yoi districts to Hat Yai.

Security has been stepped up in Songkhla after bomb attacks in neighbouring Pattani, including a car bomb near the CS Pattani Hotel in Muang district on July 31.

Police are also worried that cars and pickup trucks have been stolen to be used in car bomb attacks.

Officers are searching for four Runda Kumpulan Kecil (RKK) guerrilla suspects active in Songkhla, following the arrest of Madari Duerama, who is accused of involvement in the bombing at the Lee Gardens Plaza Hotel in Hat Yai on March 31, that killed three people and injured 350 more.

The four suspects, wanted on arrest warrants, are Jema Wani, Seri Waemamu, Susalan Baima and Sakariya Samo.

Police and border patrol police are looking for clues in Songkhla and possible hideouts in Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat to thwart them from launching attacks.

Democrat leader Abhisit Vejjajiva yesterday said he wanted the government to focus on getting better performance out of existing state agencies rather than set up a new centre to tackle the southern violence.

He was referring to a new command centre set up by the government last week. It is based in Bangkok and comprises all the related security agencies. Its first meeting will be held tomorrow.

Mr Abhisit was speaking during a visit to Pattani yesterday, where he discussed the problem in a forum joined by officials and staff from the Prince of Songkla University's Pattani campus.

They expressed concern over the workings of the Internal Security Operations Command's 4th Region and Southern Border Provinces Administrative Centre.

The agencies have lacked unity due mainly to unclear state policies, they claimed.

Mr Abhisit said such ambiguity results from the transfer of officials involved in southern policies to other positions.

Besides the insurgency, Pattani residents have also encountered a rise in other crimes because the province has a police shortage of more than 100 officers, Pattani police chief Pol Maj Gen Phichet Pitisetthaphan said.

Meanwhile, the Foreign Ministry will today hold a brainstorming session of Thai ambassadors and consul-generals based in member countries of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to seek ways to resolve the southern problems.

They are among nearly 100 Thai ambassadors and consul-generals around the world who have gathered in Bangkok to learn about the government's foreign policy.

Permanent secretary-general Sihasak Phuangketkaew will chair the closed meeting of the Thai ambassadors to OIC member countries before giving the results to Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra during the first meeting of the new command centre in Bangkok tomorrow.

Violence in the deep South continued yesterday as six soldiers were slightly injured by a motorcycle bomb while they drove a car near a branch of the Islamic Bank of Thailand in Raman district of Yala, police said.

In Narathiwat's Sukhirin district, a homemade grenade blew off the right arm of Abduntole Sudo, 22, a village defence volunteer in Ban Lubo Laso.

Sukhirin police chief Pol Col Chongchairak Khongphao suspected the grenade might have belonged to Mr Abduntole and it accidentally exploded before he could throw it.

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