Agam's Gecko
Monday, February 19, 2007
Southern Thailand
All four Muslim-majority provinces were hit by coordinated attacks which began Sunday evening.

n the most widespread escalation of insurgent attacks since the outbreak of the current intifada three years ago (over 2,000 dead), Muslim terrorists launched a wave of bombings and armed attacks across all four Muslim-majority provinces yesterday evening. The attacks seemed to be coordinated with the start of the Chinese New Year. Welcome to the Year of the Pig.

The attacks also came two days after the Prime Minister had accepted an offer from the Malaysian government to assist in setting up talks with the shadowy insurgent groups. The violence may have been intended to sabotage that cooperation, but was almost surely timed to disrupt the ethnic Chinese celebrations while taking cover amid the ubiquitous barrages of Chinese firecrackers. Several of the border towns are popular short-term holiday sites for ethnic Chinese visitors from Malaysia and Singapore.

Approximately 50 incidents in the four provinces have been reported, including 33 bombings and 14 arson attacks as well as shootings. At latest report, nine people have been killed and more than 40 wounded. The violence targeted mostly Thai Buddhists and ethnic Chinese, but of course they did not spare Muslims. The latest victim to die was a 32 year old Muslim man who succumbed to his injuries today.

As the attacks got underway last evening, bombs exploded at karaoke bars and other entertainment venues and restaurants in Narathiwat (the border town Sungai Golok) and in district centres in Yala and Pattani. A power station in Pattani was also hit, plunging the provincial capital into darkness. Within minutes of the blackout, "youths" on motorcycles and their faces covered by "black and white scarves" (keffiyeh?) rampaged through the streets ambushing government offices and residences, shooting at police and military patrols, blocking roads and setting fires.

Bangkok Post reports this morning that casualties include more than 60 wounded. Yala town alone saw 17 bombs explode, including one this morning which took the life of Army Major Prasarn Natthang outside his home. Three ethnic Chinese Thais were gunned down in Pattani, and two other villagers in the province were killed in an ambush, while the central mosque of Narathiwat was torched. Several public schools have also been burned.

Funny quote from that Post story:
The Internal Security Operation Command, which is in charge of the lack of security in the South sent helicopters to survey the areas around Yala town. "Special armed forces have also been dispatched to hunt down the culprits," Isoc said.
The Southern Border Provinces Administrative Centre (SBPAC) is just getting re-staffed and running again, after former PM Thaksin disbanded the effort in 2001. After a crisis meeting today with all security agencies chaired by PM Surayud Chulanont, it was announced that the SBPAC will be sending 88 teams to work with villages and local leaders on "psychological warfare" projects. More coverage from AFP and AP.

While the events of the last 24 hours have been a spectacular escalation in terrorist attacks in the South, it takes place in the context of a constant drone of gruesome violence on a daily basis. Here's one example from the day before:
Suspected militants shot dead a teenage boy before hacking at his body with an axe and setting it alight in the latest in a number of gruesome attacks across the Muslim-majority South, police said. The charred corpse of Wisanu sae Lim, 19, and carcasses of his dog and pangolins were found near a road in Si Sakhon district yesterday by a rubber farmer.

The teenager reportedly left home with two pistols and a dog on Friday night to seek wild mountain plants to sell, but went missing, his relatives told police.

Police said suspected insurgents shot Wisanu in the head and body and then hacked at his body with an axe before setting it on fire. His dog was also beaten to death.

''We can't say the southern insurgency is becoming more violent, but we can say that it is still not ending,'' Foreign Minister Nitya Pibulsonggram said.
Just one day later, the widespread attacks make the first part of the Foreign Minister's statement sound pretty silly. Even without them, how can anything be more violent than shooting a teenager gathering wild plants, hacking him up with an axe before setting him on fire, and beating his pet dog and pangolins (they look similar to armadillos) to death?

But at least somebody is in charge of the lack of security.


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