Insurgents wreak havoc in deep South
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Insurgents wreak havoc in deep South

One dead as dozens of coordinated arson attacks undermine peaceful atmosphere of Ramadan

Firefigfhters try to douse a blaze at a location in Yala as suspected insurgents wreaked havoc across the three southernmost border provinces of Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat overnight. (Photo: Abdullah Benjakat)
Firefigfhters try to douse a blaze at a location in Yala as suspected insurgents wreaked havoc across the three southernmost border provinces of Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat overnight. (Photo: Abdullah Benjakat)

The deep South was rocked by a series of arson attacks early Friday morning when suspected insurgents set fire to more than 40 locations in what is believed to have been an attempt to undermine the atmosphere of peace during the holy month of Ramadan.

It was one of the most violent series of coordinated attacks in recent years, with a total of 44 incidents reported across Pattani, Yala, Narathiwat and part of Songkhla.

One person was confirmed dead in an attack at a petrol station in Mayo district of Pattani, said Col Ekwarit Chobchuphon, a spokesman for the Internal Security Operations Command (Isoc) Region 4 Forward Command.

Authorities were still gathering information and verifying details of a number of incidents, he added.

The attacks were intended to destroy the local economy, erode public confidence in security officers and create unrest during Ramadan, he said.

They were also believed to mark the 20th anniversary of the 2004 Tak Bai incident, which also took place during Ramadan, which fell in October that year.

The incident on Oct 25, 2004 began when seven people were killed by security forces during a protest outside a police station. Another 78 were crushed to death or suffocated when they were transported to a military camp. To this day, no one has ever been brought to justice for the deaths.

Col Ekwarit said the assailants who carried out the attacks were believed to be new recruits with no criminal records. They were not on the security organisations’ watchlist, which makes it difficult for authorities to monitor their activities and thwart such attacks.

Speaking after a briefing by acting police chief Pol Gen Kittrat Phanpet, Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin said the senior officer would inspect the situation immediately.

Mr Srettha said he had also talked to the army chief who had instructed the Fourth Army chief to intensify security operations in the region.

Police cordon off a convenience store in Yala on Friday morning after it was set on fire. (Photo: Abdullah Benjakat)

Move Forward Party MP Romadon Panjor wrote on social media that the Tak Bai incident marked its 20th anniversary on the 11th day of the holy month of Ramadan.

He said the attacks could be seen as connected to that incident and called on the government to create a safe space for the public to demand justice for the Tak Bai violence.

Based on the initial reports compiled by Isoc, a total of 44 incidents were reported from 1am to 10.30am on Friday — 23 in Pattani, 12 in Yala, seven in Narathiwat and two in Songkhla.

In Pattani, four convenience stores in Muang, Yaring, Yarang and Khok Pho districts were set on fire. Car tyres were also torched in three locations — two in Khok Pho district and one in Panare.

Pol Col Jeffrey Saimankun, chief of Muang district police in Pattani, led police to investigate one 7-Eleven store in tambon Puyud after reports emerged that it had been torched around 1am.

Firefighters and fire trucks were deployed to the scene. It took an hour to bring the blaze under control.

Employees told police three armed men arrived at the store and fired shots into the air before the incident. They threatened to kill any staff who refused to leave, prompting everyone to flee. After that, the men poured petrol on the counter and lit it. They fled on a motorcycle.

Police found three cartridges and one bullet at the scene.

Shortly afterward, unknown numbers of assailants set fires at other locations in the province.

One convenience store in tambon Bang Poo of Yaring district and another in tambon Makrud of Khok Pho district were torched. Tyres were burned on the Na Pradu-Sai Khao road as well as on another road in an area between Sai Buri and Panare districts of Pattani.

Combined teams of police, soldiers and local officials set up road checkpoints in many areas to search suspected vehicles to prevent assailants from carrying out more attacks

In Yala, arson attacks were reported at a furniture shop in Bannang Sata district, a power pole in Raman district, and at a telephone signal pole in Yaha district. Car tyres were set on fire and metal spikes scattered over several roads.

In Narathiwat, car tyres were burned in Bacho district.

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