South hit by two bomb blasts

3 troops injured, attacks mar Ramadan ceasefire

Two bomb attacks hit the deep South yesterday, wounding three soldiers and marring the 40-day ceasefire agreement reached between the authorities and the Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN).

The first blast took place on a road leading to Bang Lang dam in Yala's Bannang Sata district about 8.10am.

The explosion wounded volunteer ranger Chaipol Meetaew, 31, who was on foot patrol.

Mr Chaipol, who suffered wounds to his legs, was taken to Bannang Sata Hospital for treatment.

Investigators said the bomb was made up of 1kg of explosives contained in a metal box.

A local source said the bombing was carried out by the network of Sagareeya Samoe, an insurgent leader, who opposes the BRN's commitment to the ceasefire during Ramadan.

Officials have beefed up security in Bannang Sata district and surrounding areas following the attack. Vehicles and individuals were being thoroughly checked before entering Muang Yala municipality.

The other bomb went off about 11.40am when six soldiers were crossing a bridge on three motorcycles in Ban Pare Lubo in tambon Marubo Ok in Narathiwat's Cho Airong district.

They were about to provide security at Alislamiah School, only 100 metres from where the explosion took place.

Sergeant Siam Seema and Sergeant Major 1st Class Buala Seesomparn were seriously wounded in the blast and were sent to Narathiwat Ratchanakharin Hospital. The other troops were unharmed.

According to an initial investigation, the explosion was caused by an improvised bomb hidden in a metal box weighing 7kg.

The bomb attacks came after Malaysia, the facilitator in the peace talks between Thai authorities and the BRN insurgent group, released a statement on Friday announcing a 40-day ceasefire covering Ramadan, which started last Wednesday.

Justice Minister Pracha Promnok said the Bannang Sata blast yesterday was the work of a splinter separatist group, not the BRN.

The authorities have yet to talk to all insurgent groups and some of the others may have carried out the bombings, Pol Gen Pracha said.

The current ceasefire should not be affected, he added.

Pol Gen Pracha refused to identify the splinter group responsible, saying he did not want to give it any credit.

Pol Gen Pracha, Deputy Defence Minister Yuthasak Sasiprapa, army chief-of-staff Udomdej Sitabut and police chief Adul Saengsingkaew plan to visit units of the Region 4 Internal Security Operations Command and officials of the Southern Border Provinces Administrative Centre (SBPAC) to give them moral support on Sunday.

The SBPAC's panel on peace promotion in the deep South is looking into a number of violent incidents that took place after the 40-day ceasefire was announced.

Kraisorn Wisitwong, a panel member, said there are six to seven attacks which the panel is working on to try to identify the culprits.

Mr Kraisorn is also the director of the Civil Society Office under the SBPAC.

He said the working committee was formed on the advice of the Office of the Chularatchamontri which is seeking to ensure that security operations do not hinder the Muslim way of life during the fasting month.

"Our job is to investigate and assess violent attacks in the region. Other agencies concerned are also working on them.

"If any incident is deemed related to the southern violence, we will inform the authorities so it can raise the matter with the BRN," he said.

Meanwhile, Patimoh Poh-ee-tae Da-oh, a leader of the women's advocate group "We Peace", yesterday said only 20% of southern unrest incidents were the work of separatists.

Up to 50% of the cases were linked to personal conflicts, Ms Patimoh told a seminar on solutions to the deep South violence, organised by the Thai Broadcast Journalists Association. Another 30% were connected to drug problems, she added.

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Writer: Muhammad Ayub Pathan & Waedao Harai