Southern clash to 'hurt' peace talks
National police chief Chakthip to fly to Yala
A car bomb attack and clashes near the Pattani dam in Yala will inevitably affect peace talks with insurgent networks in the Muslim-dominated southernmost provinces.
Gen Wanlop Rugsanaoh, head of Thailand's Peace Dialogue Panel, admitted on Thursday the incidents will affect the atmosphere of talks but insisted that the violence will "not halt" attempts to cope with the insurgency at the negotiating table.
"Negotiators are still determined to deal with the problem through dialogue," he said, stressing that being peaceful means would play a leading role in ending the conflict with Mara Patani, an umbrella organisation of various separatist movements.
Gen Wanlop gave his assurances as the eight-day clash near the dam in tambon Tase of Muang district was escalating with one more militant suspect killed in a firefight. His death brings the total toll to five, including one soldier, according to the Internal Security Operations Command (Isoc).
The suspect was part of a group of four who continue to reject authorities' attempts to talk them into surrendering even though three other gangsters have been killed in the confrontation which began on March 12.
Two of the suspects killed earlier are linked with an attack on a security checkpoint in tambon Lamphaya in Yala's Muang district on Nov 6, 2019.
The clash near the dam is proving to be a difficult mission because the suspects have good knowledge of the area near the Pattani-Yala border.
4th Army chief Lt Gen Phonsak Phunsawat has ordered officers to avoid violence and despite religious leaders being invited to negotiate with the suspects, the confrontation continues to get worse.
"But every officer is in high morale," Col Watcharakon Onngoen, deputy spokesman for Isoc Region 4 Forward Command said.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha on Thursday told national police chief Pol Gen Chakthip Chaijinda to travel to Yala to coordinate a plan to nab the suspects.
It appears as if the clash at the dam and the car bomb outside the Southern Border Provinces Administration Centre (SBPAC), also in Yala Muang district, are related, a security source familiar with the issues said.
The bomb attack, which left 25 people injured, is believed to be the insurgents' response to an operation at the dam, he said.
On Tuesday, a pickup truck loaded with processed wood exploded while SBPAC officials were meeting on measures to curb Covid-19 pandemic.
According to investigators, the assailants began their plot by ordering wood from a shop which was told to make a delivery at a location near tambon Bannang Sareng in Yala's Muang district.
However, the delivery truck was intercepted by the assailants who then detained the driver and his aide at a rubber plantation. The two were later met by a village head and his colleague.