Double tap confounded
The images haunt. A mother, with a wounded face, clutches her daughter and hunkers down beside the detergent shelves. A blackened battery and two wheels, all that is left of the stolen pickup crammed with cooking gas cans. Social media simply taking over the corporate Facebook pages of Big C to post thousands of photos, videos and messages.
But the most telling image of the bombing of the very popular Big C Supercenter in Pattani -- bombed twice before, with less violence -- was the newspaper headline: 59 wounded in Big C bombing.
You have to think the mastermind of this atrocity stared at that headline for a long time, and then went into a foul-mouthed rage. Which is very good news.
When a small explosion went off inside Big C, no one rushed for the exit, but hunkered down and sheltered the children, waiting for the real blast to come. (Photos FB/BIG-C-Pattani)
Tuesday's double-tap bombing of Big C Pattani was supposed to kill. If it had occurred almost anywhere else than Pattani, the headline almost certainly would have read: 59 killed in store bombing.
The separatists of the deep South have come up with some atrocities in their day.But for sheer effort for dead bystanders, especially women and children, it's hard to top Tuesday.
A trained staff, experienced if war-weary people and fast civilian reaction saved a lot of lives, possibly many more than 59. Security authorities played no part, except to rush in an hour late and a tipoff short.
The separatists' diabolical plan was almost perfect, if killing innocents is your thing.
It was also simple. Set off a small, diversionary explosion. Panic shoppers and staff and get them running to the exit. At the front door, park the stolen pickup with the cooking gas tanks and as they come running out, BOOM! Bodies everywhere.
When the truck bomb went off, no one was near enough to the exit, inside or out, to be hit by the direct blast. Almost all those hurt, 56 adults and 11 minors, had relatively light wounds, pain and blood trickles serving to confirm they were still alive. Most of the adults were women shoppers.
No one died, because the deep South has seen this before. When the first explosion occurred, trained Big C staff locked all the exits and told those in the store to hunker down -- and stay away from that pickup at the front door.
This is all that remained of the pickup truck that parked in front of the Big C main exit (inset) and planned to kill shoppers and staff as they rushed out of the store.
The few people seriously wounded all had ignored the warnings and just had to see the pickup for themselves.
It was fascinating to see first one, and then the panoply of human rights groups, foreign and domestic, in virtually united condemnation. Because they're almost superposable, pick one and read them all. Here is CrCF's Surapong Kongchantuk: "... deepest condolences ... condemn those behind the attacks ... violence to women and children ..."
It was as if they had just arrived in Thailand last week. This was hardly something new. Consider.
• 54 beheadings, almost all civilians, mostly Muslims, from 2004 to 2014, when it seems local revulsion finally convinced the insurgents to stop.
• When they stopped beheading, they began burning assassination victims alive. In the first case, in July of 2015, militants ambushed and wounded two soldiers, then set them ablaze.
• Car bombs are a continuing strategy. In April of 2012, a single car bomb in the parking garage of the Lee Gardens Plaza Hotel and adjacent mall in Hat Yai killed four and sent 350 to hospital.
• In 2004, the BRN offered a bounty of 90,000 baht for the head of any province governor. (They still don't have one.)
• In February of 2010, assassination teams killed, first, a Buddhist woman and her daughter and then, the next day, a Muslim woman and her daughter.
• Credit the Muslim spiritual leader, Chularatchamontri Aziz Phitakkumpon, a native southerner, with speaking after the shocking bomb attack on a Buddhist alms service in July of 2015 that left a monk dead. Mr Aziz said there are, after all, "venues protected under the laws of war".
And that barely touches the surface. It is politically correct to avoid calling the southern gangs terrorists. Still, their murderous actions often meet the exact definition of that word written at the United Nations. The BRN, as Bangkok Post columnist Kong Rithdee wrote cogently, is trying to bomb itself to the negotiating table.
The separatists didn't invent terrorism or separatism. The car bomb is almost as old as cars. The double-tap terrorist is centuries old, and at that just a revision of Sun Tzu's writings on diversions.
What's pretty new is a trained and disciplined shopping centre staff. Who expected that?
Five dozen people wounded, severe property destruction and a popular shopping area lost is still a horrible day. But fast thinking by able responders, resulting in zero deaths, was a positive achievement as well as a rebuff of double tap.