Locals brave risks to tell on rebels

New information from residents has led to a spike in arrests

A rise in insurgent violence is persuading residents to open up about unrest in their midst, authorities say.

Residents are willing to risk the threat of being targetted by attacks to inform authorities about insurgent activities, leading to a rise in the number of arrests made, they said.

Samart Waradisai, the province's deputy governor, said residents are weary of the violence, in which both state officials and the public have been targetted.

"The authorities now can arrest more suspects and seize more weapons partly because of information and clues provided by residents," he said.

"They are fed up with the violence and want it to end," he said.

Anan Boonsamran, head of Bacho district, said residents take risks by turning to authorities for help.

"They are still afraid of the insurgents as they have to live among them in this community, but more of them are secretly giving us information about the insurgents' movements," he said.

Some locals feel the situation has worsened, with attacks taking place more frequently in downtown urban areas.

Wanida, who asked for her surname to be withheld for safety reasons, said insurgent attacks previously took place mostly in suburban areas. However, more attacks are now taking place in the city, with almost everyone _ whether state officials or the public _ as their targets.

"I used to feel safe living downtown, but not any more. I have stopped going out late at night," said the 30-year-old Narathiwat native, who is also a civil servant.

A karaoke bar in the city's central area was hit by a gun and bomb attack wounding four people on Jan 9, just a day before Wanida was interviewed.

"For me, it seems the violence has become far worse," she said.

Ausanee Awae, 41, said the situation remains tense.

She is plagued by fear since her husband was killed in an attack in Cho Ai Rong district on his way back home last year. "I am more alert and careful as I have to take care of our two children," she said.

Ms Ausanee, a Muslim, said her children travel to school every day and she is concerned they might be harmed. "I can only hope and pray this violence will end soon," she said.

However, some residents said the situation in the South is not as bad as has been reported by the media.

"I live a normal life," said Sama-ae, 60, a roti vendor. He said he sells food every day from 4pm to 3am and has not experienced any life-threatening situations. "Violence rarely happens here in this downtown area. There is no reason to be afraid," he said.

An owner of a cloth shop said she too is not worried about the violence and can live a normal life.

"I can go everywhere, even at night," she said.

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Writer: Lamphai Intathep