Thailand’s resilient south hit by wave of arson and bombing

HAT YAI, Thailand – A wave of arson and bombing has hit Thailand’s southernmost provinces, where nearly two decades have been home to active Muslim separatists, officials said on Wednesday, officials said. .

At least 17 attacks took place on Tuesday evening in Pattani, Narathiwat and Yala provinces, mainly at convenience stores and gas stations, military spokesman Pramote Promin said. Three civilians were reported injured. There is no statement of responsibility.

More than 7,300 people have been killed since the uprising began in 2004 in three provinces, the only ones with a Muslim majority in Buddhist-dominated Thailand. Attacks have also taken place in the neighboring Songkhla province.

Muslim residents have long accused them of being treated like second-class citizens in Thailand, and secessionist movements have periodically operated for decades. Heavy-handed crackdowns have sparked discontent.

The attacks are the most famous since early April, when the Thai government and the BRN – Barisan Revolusi Nasional Melayu Patani, believed to be the largest of several insurgency groups – agreed to halt the violence for a time. Muslim time of Ramadan. In another incident of violence since then, two Thai army landmine experts on duty were killed by a bomb later that month.

Pramote said Tuesday night’s attackers “dressed up as women, used motorbikes and in many cases used petrol bombs, hurling them at targeted locations.”

“It is clear that the insurgents remain committed to using violence against people, damaging confidence in the economy, creating uncertainty and undermining the government system,” he said.

Police Captain Sarayuth Kotchawong said he received a report shortly before midnight that a suspect had entered a convenience store at a gas station in Yala’s Yaha district, placed a black bag inside and warned staff leave if they “don’t want to die”. The worker left before the bag exploded 10 minutes later.

The various Southern rebel groups did not issue a consensus request. They are a shadowy mix of veteran separatists and violent young militant groups often loosely led. Their goals range from greater autonomy to independence, with little indication of their involvement with jihadist movements in other Southeast Asian countries, such as Indonesia and the Philippines.

Peace talks have been going on for several years under the auspices of the Malaysian government between Thai officials and Mara Patani, an umbrella body representing several rebel groups. In January 2020, Thai officials held their first official meeting in years with BRN representatives.

Although the BRN is considered the most influential of the separatist groups, local members operate with some autonomy. They often carry out hit and run attacks, such as drive-by shootings and roadside bomb ambushes. They are also known for their occasional coordinated attacks that seek to make political views by flexing their muscles.

Sometimes large-scale bloodshed has occurred. In November 2019, gunmen killed 15 village guard volunteers and wounded five security personnel in what is believed to be the deadliest attack on government forces since the uprising. of the separatists began.

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