Insurgents suspected behind powerful blast as officials view military parade; more attacks leave three officers injured
NARATHIWAT – The governor of this southern province escaped injury when a powerful bomb went off at a stadium about 20 metres away from where he and other senior officials were watching a military parade, but six security officers were wounded.
The officials were jolted by the blast but none were hurt in what is seen as the most high-profile assassination attempt by Muslim insurgents, who are suspected of being behind five bombing attacks in the past three days.
The estimated five-kilogram device was detonated just as 360 defence volunteers were lining up in formation for a march that was meant to be a show of force and unity in the region, where 600 people have died in attacks over the past year.
Governor Pracha Therat said he was not intimidated by this or previous acts of violence.
Siva Saengmanee, deputy director of the Southern Border Provinces Peace-Building Com-mand, called for an emergency meeting to assess the latest string of attacks, which continued early afternoon when a remote-control set off a roadside bomb as 10 soldiers were driving by in a remote area in Sungai Padi district.
A short but vicious gunfight with an unspecified number of suspected insurgents erupted immediately afterwards, leaving two soldiers seriously wounded and a military vehicle riddled with at least 50 bullets.
At 2.30pm in Joh I Rong sub-district, another roadside bomb wounded one of eight police travelling in a patrol vehicle.
“The insurgents are trying to discredit the authorities,’’ Siva said.
“They want to show the local community that in spite of stricter controls, they are still able to carry out these kind of attacks.”
Yesterday’s assassination attempt and the other attacks marked the latest spate of bombings following Sunday’s general election, which saw all seats in the three southernmost provinces going to the opposition Democrat Party.
The attacks also came amid a strong-worded statement from Prime Minister Thaksin Shina-watra, who vowed to maintain his tough policy against the escalating separatist rebellion.
“There will be no change or adjustment of measures and
policies for handling the situation in the South,’’ Thaksin told reporters on Wednesday.
“We are on the right track. People in the region may not understand us today, but one day they will.’’
Shortly after he made the comments, six gunmen fired on a police outpost in this province, wounding two officers, Pol Lt-Colonel Ong-art Intonharee said.
A nearby public school was also burnt down.
The attackers fled when police called in reinforcements, but the militants planted a bomb in the vicinity that killed a civilian, he said.
Yesterday evening, two men on motorcycle hurled a hand grenade at a police kiosk in Rangae district, slightly damaging the structure and a house nearby. But no injuries were reported to the over 10 police inside the kiosk or anyone else.
Bad week in Narathiwat
Major incidents of violence in the province since the general election:
Monday: A bomb is found in front of the entrance to a school in Tak Bai district at noon. It takes police about 10 minutes to defuse the six-kilogram device.
Tuesday: A bomb explodes at the Luanheng Hotel in Rangae district at 10.30am, injuring two.
Wednesday: A remote-controlled bomb explodes opposite Pu Yoh health centre in Sungai Kolok district at 8pm, killing one official and injuring two others. The officials are lured to the scene after unknown assailants stage a shooting.
Yesterday: A bomb goes off in the morning at a stadium in the town of Narathiwat during a ceremony attended by several high-ranking officials. Six people are injured, but Governor Pracha Taerat is unhurt.
Another bomb explodes on Ponoh–Ban Taseh Tai Road in Sungai Padi district at 1.30pm, injuring two military officers on patrol.
At 2.30pm, an explosion erupts in front of a school in Joh I Rong district, overturning a patrol car carrying seven police officers. Armed gunmen then open fire on the vehicle, and one of the officers is seriously injured.
Published on February 11, 2005