Saturday, January 19, 2008

Havoc at the Market

Bangkok Reporting

This post is the latest in a series from our Bangkok correspondent, H. Numan, about violence in the southern provinces of Thailand.


Southern militants detonated a bomb planted on a stolen motorcycle parked near Yala’s popular morning market on Tuesday morning. Forty-four people were injured, six seriously. The seriously wounded are being treated at Yala regional hospital.

Police said the bombers parked a motorcycle strapped with explosives in front of one of the food stalls close to SP Copy shop. The blast destroyed the stalls and shattered glass windows of nearby shops.

A bomb disposal squad cut off mobile phone signals to prevent other bombs being detonated before going in to inspect the blast scene. Tuesday’s blast follows on the heels of a violent attack Monday on a Thai patrol in nearby Narathiwat province that left eight soldiers dead.

Also in Yala, two men identified as Ali Deekasor, 20, and Sudeng Taleh, 43, were arrested separately yesterday for alleged complicity in insurgent attacks in the province.

In Narathiwat, six people were detained as suspects in the bomb attack and ensuing ambush in the province’s Chanae district on Monday, in which eight soldiers in a teacher escort team were left murdered.

The attackers made off with the soldiers’ firearms, including eight M16 assault rifles, an 11mm pistol and an M60 machine gun.

The arrest came after a raid on four houses in the district believed to be where the ambushers had taken shelter.

Forensic tests revealed traces of gun powder on at least three of the six suspects. However, all denied that they had carried out the bomb attack.

Authorities were also scouring the blast scene for more evidence yesterday.

Col. Thanathip Sawangsaeng, spokesman for the Internal Security Operations Command (Isoc), said the soldiers killed in the blast were not beheaded. Their heads were blown off by the force of the explosion.
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The eight soldiers were posthumously promoted and their families provided with cash compensation. They were also awarded special royal decorations for their bravery.

Angkhana Neelaphaijit, chairwoman of the Working Group on Justice for Peace, condemned insurgent groups for Monday’s deadly ambush in Chanae district.

She said in a statement that it was an act of barbarism which had dealt a serious blow to efforts to forge harmony and restore peace in the deep South.

Government spokesman Chaiya Yimwilai said the cabinet yesterday approved the extension of the emergency decree for another three months in Narathiwat, Pattani and Yala, and this would take effect on Sunday.

The decree no longer covers the four districts of Songkhla — Chana, Thepha, Na Thawi and Saba Yoi — which border the insurgent-prone areas of the deep South. The districts, however, remain under martial law due to incidents of unrest

A bit more than full year ago, prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra was ousted by the military. One of the reasons was his lack of results in subduing the Muslim uprising in the South of Thailand. His method was perceived as far too forceful.

The caretaker prime minister was a Muslim, a kind of good will gesture towards the Muslim population of the south. He wanted to end the crisis by negotiating. However, his main political achievement so far is: ‘Problems? I don’t have any problems. My successor will solve all problems.’ In other words, he and his team didn’t do much to solve any problem, let alone solving the crisis in the south.

We recently had elections, to re-introduce a democratic government again. Thaksin’s party, the TRT, was disbanded. A new party, called the PPP, basically took over the TRT program and members. They are very vocal in giving Thaksin an amnesty, and possibly have him once more as PM in the near future. This party won the elections by a big margin. One of the major reasons is the complete lack of results in solving the southern unrest by the current government.

I’d like to remind readers that we have had at least three people every day killed for almost the full decade. In that decade far more people were killed than in the entire civil war in Northern Ireland. And, I might add, usually killed in a far more brutal way: beheadings are standard Muslim executions here, and if time permits, not by a straight beheading, but rather by sawing of the neck. Beheadings are far more terrorizing that way. Even if people are killed in other ways, for example by gun shots, or torched, insurgents will, if time permits still try to cut off the heads. Makes the UDF and the IRA look like innocent kiddies…

This was Bangkok reporting,
H. Numan.