Arrest link seen in bus blaze

Arrest link seen in bus blaze

The torching of a passenger bus in Yala this week could have been revenge for the arrest of a top insurgent, according to a security source.

Local officials were hunting for information and an analysis by the local intelligence unit revealed a possible motive: the torching was to get back at the authorities for detaining five insurgent suspects including their leading figure Sorbree Jehwae in Yala's Than To district on Nov 20.

Mr Sorbee is the right-hand man of Abdulloh Tapohto, a key insurgent active in Krong Pinang, Than To and Bannang Sata districts of Yala. Bannang Sata is where the interprovincial bus, which originated from Betong district, was set ablaze by attackers on Sunday.

The attack did not hurt anyone and it was reported the charred wreckage of the bus was being kept as evidence by the military. Police collected bullet shells at the scene and found they are the same type of ammunition used in at least six attacks in Than To and Bannang Sata districts. Four suspects have been captured by security authorities over the bus arson and warrants for their arrest are being obtained, according to the source.

Army chief-of-staff Natthapol Nakpanich said yesterday the bus burning may also have stemmed from commercial disputes over the operation of buses on the route, possibly between rival companies. At this stage, however, investigators have not ruled out any motives.

The revenge attack theory, however, contradicted comments made on Tuesday by the 4th Army chief who said the attackers were probably not militants as they acted like "gentlemen", harming no passengers and even helping them leave the vehicle. 4th Army commander Lt Gen Piyawat Nakwanich noted the attackers did not resort to rough treatment of the bus passengers, carried their bags and even helped the elderly and disabled people get off the bus.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, in his capacity as chief of the National Council for Peace and Order, has invoked Section 44 power to set up security panels at regional and provincial levels in the Internal Security Operations Command.

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