Anwar visits Prawit, backs peace bid

Anwar visits Prawit, backs peace bid

Blast hurts ranger as 'festive' unrest erupts

Anwar Ibrahim (left), recently released from prison, is expected to be appointed as Malaysian prime minister early next year. He paid a courtesy call on Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon, who is also Minister of Defence. (Photo Twitter/@wassanananuam)
Anwar Ibrahim (left), recently released from prison, is expected to be appointed as Malaysian prime minister early next year. He paid a courtesy call on Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon, who is also Minister of Defence. (Photo Twitter/@wassanananuam)

Malaysian prime minister-in-waiting Anwar Ibrahim is confident he will be able to help Thailand to solve the problems in the restive South, Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon quoted him as saying.

"Mr Anwar Ibrahim came to Bangkok (last week) and asked to meet me. We discussed the problems of the restive South and he said he was confident that he can help create peace, so that both of our countries can grow together," the deputy prime minister, who is also the defence minister, said.

"After the meeting, I feel hopeful. His way is the same as [Malaysian PM] Mahathir Mohamad's," the defence minister said.

However, the comments came as more violence rattled the South Monday.

A bomb blast that injured a paramilitary ranger in Yala added to the spate of violent incidents erupting ahead of the festive season next month.

The explosion followed separate attacks in Narathiwat and Songkhla, which killed a total of three people earlier on Sunday.

Insurgent suspects were believed to be "sparking violence near the end of the year as it is the season for tourism", Internal Security Operations Command (Isoc) Region 4's deputy chief Maj Gen Chatuphon Kalamphasut said after deadly shooting in Songkhla's Thepha district where two paramilitary rangers and an assistant village head were gunned down.

Though the attack in Yala did not claim any lives, it apparently targeted a squad of 12 rangers during their patrol, police said.

The bomb, identified as a three-kilogramme homemade device, exploded as the group was walking near a crossroads in Ban Asen in the morning under a directive to tighten security for teachers, police said.

The bomb had been hidden in a traffic cone.

The blast injured ranger Arong Yuso whose right hand was hurt. However, the other 11 rangers, all attached to the 47th Ranger Regiment, were unharmed.

Police believe Monday's violence was instigated by militants determined to escalate their campaign after the violence had died down in recent months.

The unrest broke out in 2004 when insurgent suspects stole guns and killed four soldiers at the 4th Development Battalion in Narathiwat.

Since then, the insurgency has expanded to cover the Muslim-dominated provinces of Yala and Pattani as well as parts of Songkhla. Several thousand people and officers have been killed in the troubles.

A source close to security missions warned  that insurgent groups have taken to hiding small explosive devices in traffic cones, as well as paper and plastic boxes, in crowded areas.

Also, he added, teenagers have been recruited and will be ordered to carry out attacks because they are not listed on existing arrest warrants and can more easily avoid police inspection.

In Songkhla's Thepha district, police officers are tracking down suspects who were behind an attack near a local market, after three people were killed when attackers sprayed bullets.

Investigators suspect an insurgent group led by Bukhori Lamso were responsible for the violence, Maj Gen Chatuphon said. His group is active in parts of Songkhla, Yala and Pattani.

Another similar shooting also occurred in Narathiwat's Rangae district on Sunday night. Six unidentified men fired several types of guns, including M16 assault rifles, at rangers and village defence volunteers at a shelter near Aipase School, police said.

No one was injured.

According to an intelligence source, the attackers were believed to be acting on the orders of two key insurgent suspects identified only by their first names -- Sukilfi and Abdunlo.

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