PHUKET: Security has been beefed up in the restive deep South ahead of the long Songkran holiday next week, following destructive bombing attacks in Yala over the past two days.
Yesterday’s bomb explosion at a goods warehouse in Yala municipality led to a blaze that caused at least Bt300 million in damage.
The Sri Samai warehouse is the largest for consumer products in the region and distributes goods to the three southern border provinces of Yala, Narathiwat and Pattani.
A convenience store located next to the warehouse was among four targets attacked yesterday morning.
Authorities in the southern border provinces yesterday began increasing security measures in risky areas.
Yala Governor Dejrat Simsiri said the bombings in the province yesterday and on Sunday were certainly carried out by the same group of people judging from evidence found by investigators.
He said the attacks involved car and motorcycle bombs and were obviously well planned and aimed at undermining the local economy ahead of Songkran.
The governor said the authorities were convinced that yesterday’s explosions were caused by time bombs planted around the same time as those that exploded on Sunday.
“The perpetrators timed the bombs to explode at different times in order to make the attacks look worse,” he said.
Local authorities have boosted security to the top level and thoroughly scrutinised possible target areas, according to the governor.
He added that security had been provided to individuals who could be targeted by insurgents.
Noppong Thiraworn, head of the Yala Chamber of Commerce, put the warehouse damage bill at an estimated Bt300 million.
The warehouse mainly stored consumer products, electrical appliances and furniture.
Noppong said the economic impact of the attacks was incalculable, with the latest attacks the severest in 10 years.
“The perpetrators certainly wanted to scare away tourists when we expect Songkran to help stimulate the local economy,” he said.
On Sunday evening, four almost simultaneous explosions rocked Yala, killing one person and injuring 28 others in the heart of the town.
Yala is one of several hot spots in the predominantly Muslim deep South. Violence flared in the region in January 2004 and since claimed more than 5,000 lives. The authorities believe separatist insurgents are behind most of the violence.
In the neighbouring province of Narathiwat, security has been heightened, particularly in the downtown and business centre, following the attacks in Yala, Narathiwat Governor Nattapong Sirichana said yesterday.
More checkpoints have been set up to screen suspected vehicles entering those areas.
Nattapong said insurgents might attempt to carry out attacks in Muang and Sungai Kolok districts ahead of Songkran, in a bid to scare away tourists.
Security sources said yesterday that the latest attacks could be aimed at challenging the new commander of the Fourth Army Region, Lt-General Walit Rojanapakdee.
The sources said that the bombings had had a severe psychological impact on locals, while the intended message from insurgents could be that they were capable of such attacks at anytime and anywhere.
PHUKET: The bombings in Yala on Sunday and yesterday may stem from four factors, including a challenge by insurgents to the new commander of Army Region 4, Lt Gen Walit Rojanapakdee, a national security agency source said yesterday.
Walit had visited the Khuhamuk Buddhist community in Yala’s Muang district hours before the bombings, as one of his first assignments.
The blasts on Sunday included one at Raja Furniture on Sirorote Road in which a car bomb was set off, killing an unknown person. It is two years since the last car bomb was reported in Yala city – on March 31, 2012, at the “safety zone” intersection of Ruammit and Jongrak roads. That blast, which claimed 10 lives, took place on the same day of a bombing in Hat Yai.
Besides being a challenge to Walit and Internal Security Operations Command Region 4 Forward Com-mand at Yarang district’s Sirindhorn Camp, only a kilometre from some bomb sites, the source suggested the bombings could have resulted from insurgents’ inability to mount an attack last month because of beefed-up security. March also included symbolic days such as the Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN) founding day on March 13 and the second anniversary of the Hat Yai and Yala car bombings on March 31.
The third factor was security may have been looser than usual, as officers were exhausted from operations last month, while some men were sent to Bangkok for protest-related operations. Intelligence may also have been lacking, as the bombings occurred despite previous warnings of pre-Songkran blasts in Yala.
Fourth, bombings in downtown Yala may be aimed at scaring the public, so they believe insurgents have the potential to create violence at any time and anywhere, the source added.
Other security sources said the attacks in Yala’s commercial area, as well as previous killings of innocent people in the region, suggested insurgents were back “full on” against the government. This may relate to BRN’s YouTube announcement in December that it would no longer participate in the peace dialogue with Thailand.
Last year when the dialogue was ongoing, attacks focused on state officers, with a significant reduction in attacks on innocent citizens. Rumours that the dialogue had failed spread while violence rose, despite Malaysian facilitator Ahmad Zamzamin bin Hashim’s February comment that talks would resume once Thailand sorted out its political conflicts.
All in all, it seems that the Bt200 billion spent to tackle violence over the past 11 years has evaporated in the explosions that claimed many lives.
PHUKET: A leader of the anti-government People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) denied yesterday that the PDRC was trying to unconstitutionally overthrow the caretaker Yingluck Shinawatra administration.
The charge followed a declaration by PDRC secretary-general Suthep Thaugsuban that the movement had the sovereign status to seek a royal endorsement to install a new administration.
Thaworn Senneam, a PDRC leader, said yesterday Suthep was referring only to a situation where red-shirt supporters and the government might refuse to accept two Constitutional Court rulings.
These rulings would refer to the legality of Yingluck transferring Thawil Pliensri from the National Security Council (NSC) in 2011, and her possible indictment by the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) over alleged dereliction of her duty involving the controversial rice scheme.
Thaworn said the government and its supporters must accept scrutiny and possible punishment by the independent organisations under the Constitution.
He denied the allegation
— Phuket Gazette Editors
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