State officials suspected in Yala attack
Travel schedule may have been passed on
- Published: 6/04/2013 at 10:44 PM
- Online news:
Investigators suspect state officials might have been involved in Friday's bomb attack that killed Yala deputy governor Issara Thongthawat and an assistant governor in Yala's Bannang Sata district.
The car used by the Yala deputy governor Issara Thongthawat and the pickup truck (inset) used by his escort were hit in a carefully planned ambush-bombing, and officials suspect one or more moles inside the Yala provincial authority. (Main photo by Muhammad Ayub Pathan)
Bannang Sata police chief Pol Col Charoen Thammakhan said Saturday that investigators had questioned six defence volunteers who escorted the car in which the two victims were travelling. Nothing suspicious had been found, he said.
However, Pol Col Charoen said the attackers must have planned the bombing in advance to have targeted the officials.
He suspected other officials might have been involved in providing the attackers with information about the victims' schedule. Inquiries are continuing.
Bannang Sata district chief Somsak Charoen Phaithoon said the six volunteers had nothing to do with the attack.
Trips by high-ranking officials usually are kept secret, he said, adding that security will be stepped up to protect senior staff when they travel.
Investigators arrived Saturday at the scene of the attack to gather evidence.
They found electrical cords believed to have been used in the bomb attack, a T-shirt, and bomb shrapnel. Police will send the evidence for DNA testing to try to identify the attackers.
Issara was travelling with Chaovalit Chairuek, Yala assistant governor in charge of provincial defence, in a sedan on Route 410 near Ban Kasot when a bomb planted by the roadside was set off.
The deputy governor and the driver of the car, Satorpa Jehloh, were critically injured. They were rushed to Yala Hospital but Issara was later pronounced dead.
The victims are among the highest ranking officials to have been slain in the strife-torn far South.
The deputy governor's team was on its way to a food fair in Betong district when the bomb went off.
His car was being escorted by the six defence volunteers from Yala Taskforce 15.
The explosion left a one metre deep crater. The bomb, estimated to weigh about 20kg, was planted underneath the road.
Investigators believe the attack was the work of a militant group led by Makata Alimamah who is active in the province.
The attack occurred a week after the government held its first peace talks in Malaysia with representatives of separatist groups in an attempt to end the nine-year insurgency which has claimed more than 5,000 lives.
Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra Saturday sent her condolences over the deaths of the two officials.
She stressed the need for authorities in the far South to take precautions to ensure the safety of local people and officials.
Ms Yingluck also said Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yubamrung, who is in charge of security operations in the deep South, should urgently visit the region to oversee measures to solve the southern conflict.
Responding to criticism that the ongoing peace talks with insurgent representatives had failed as violence was continuing unabated, Ms Yingluck said the peace talks were only at the initial stage and it would take some time before any concrete results could be achieved.
Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva said the government must urge the insurgent representatives participating in the peace talks to scale down attacks.
He noted the attacks on high-ranking officials were intended as symbolic acts to show some militants disagreed with the peace process.
Mr Abhisit said if Mr Chalerm still refused to visit the violence-torn deep South, Ms Yingluck should dismiss him from the job of overseeing security in the region.
Meanwhile, more violence was reported in the troubled region.
In Pattani's Muang district, Alee Masa, 35, was shot dead in his pickup truck.
After finishing dinner at a food shop, he got into his vehicle and started the engine when a gunman in another car attacked him. Police suspected a personal conflict.
In Narathiwat, a defence volunteer was slightly injured by a bomb explosion in Si Sakhon district Saturday.
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