South bombings put navy into crisis mode

South bombings put navy into crisis mode

Bases in lockdown after patrol ship blast

Deadly attacks in Pattani and Narathiwat on Saturday night have prompted the navy to impose maximum security measures at all military installations and airports in the South. A navy patrol ship was the target of one of the attacks.

Bomb blasts and shootings rang out in 15 locations in Pattani's Muang district and at least three parts of Narathiwat's Rueso district early on Saturday evening.

The attacks left three people dead and 73 wounded, the Public Health Ministry said. The Internal Security Operations Command (Isoc) reported the injury toll at 61.

The attacks began about 7.30pm, and shots were heard in some locations until almost midnight.

Targets of the attacks included a petrol station, five 7-Eleven convenience stores, a fish market, utility poles, a mobile phone signal tower, and a navy patrol ship.

The attacks caused a blackout across the entire municipality of Pattani on Saturday night.

Navy chief Narong Pipattanasai yesterday ordered navy officers to the highest level of security alert at military installations and airports after Tor 229 was damaged by one of the explosions in Pattani.

The patrol boat was hit by an unidentified explosive device while anchored at a pier on the Pattani River. The explosion ripped a large hole in the side of the vessel and slightly injured three officers, navy spokesman Kan Dee-ubon said.

The boat was repaired and returned to the main naval base in Songkhla, he added.

The attack was the first on a navy vessel since the insurgency erupted in the southern border regions in 2004.

Isoc spokesman Pol Banpote Poolpien linked the attacks to the political problems in Bangkok.

But 4th Army commander Walit Rojanaphakdi dismissed any connection between the attacks and the abrupt change in leadership at the Southern Border Provinces Administration Centre (SPBAC).

The military junta on Saturday transferred Pol Col Thawee Sodsong from the position of SPBAC secretary-general to an inactive post in Bangkok.

He was replaced by Panu Uthairat, an Interior Ministry inspector-general, who was the former SPBAC chief.

Gen Walit yesterday inspected the sites damaged by the bomb attacks in Pattani and visited the wounded in hospital. He conceded that the military needed to review its security measures.

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