A series of bombings Wednesday night and into Thursday morning have spread fear throughout Pattani in southern Thailand. Pattani is located near the Thailand-Malaysian border and is one of three Muslim districts in the largely Buddhist Thailand. While no group has claimed responsibility police believe southern Thai-Malay insurgents who have been clashing with the government for 50 years.
The attacks included two bombs that detonated at automated teller machine (ATM) injuring 11 police officers near the Yaring District of Pattani, and another bomb went off near a hair dressers killing 1 civilian. Other areas attacked by the insurgents included a post office, food stall, bank, and government office.
The bombing prompted Forward Command of the Internal Security Operation Command (ISOC), a unit of the Thai military specializing in national security issues to place increased security in all southern towns, especially Hat Yai, where tourists are expected to arrive for the Songkran Festival, which is the Thai New Year from April 13-15.
Security officials have set up road checkpoints from all roads leading to Hat Yai whether they are coming from the border or insurgent plagued provinces all vehicles will be screened.
While no one particular Thai-Malay group has been identified to be responsible for the bombings there are groups with a history of similar attacks. These include Pattani United Liberation Organization (PULO) and the National Revolutionary Front (BRN).
There are numerous motives that could be behind the separatists’ attacks that include separatists seeking to break away from Thailand and form their own state; while others call for the establishment of a global caliphate, in line with the position of global jihadists including Al Qaeda and Islamic State, and maintain ties to regional jihadist groups like Indonesia’s Jemaah Islamiah.
The recent bomb attacks are some of the most serious south Thailand has experienced in years according to Thai officials. This may dispute claims that the Thai Army and a group of conflict analysts made back in January stating that violence in the southern provinces had dropped to the lowest levels in ten years.
Recent bombings carried out by Thai-Malay separatists throughout Southern Thailand include:
- May 14, 2014, bombings in the Yala Province injuries 18.
- In May 24, 2014, a series of bombings targeting gas stations and 7-11 convenience stores killed 3 and injured 55.
- In November 13, 2015, a bomb detonated at a checkpoint in the Khok Pho district in Pattani, killing 4 and injuring 4.
- February 27, 2016 a car bomb detonated in the Muang district injuring a group of policeman.
- March 14, 2016 This was followed by an attack on police at the Cho-Airong Di strict on March 14. A group of 30 insurgents than began hurling grenades into a military base injuring seven soldiers.
People in southern Thailand have been complaining for years about being neglected by Bangkok. The failure of successive governments to cease violence in the region has created resentment in southern province, which had been an independent Malay Muslim Sultanate a century ago, before being annexed to Thailand.
Southern Thailand has long been home to repeated armed opposition to the ruling Thai government including foreign Muslims and communist rebels. The region has long been plagued by lawlessness and crime.
Resistance to the Central Government has been going on for decades but violent anti-government attacks began to resurface in 2004. More than 6,500 people including monks, teachers, soldiers, and separatist insurgents have been killed as a result of the conflict.
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