THE GOVERNMENT will not make any peace deals with separatists in the deep South as long as violence persists in the predominantly Muslim region, Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan said yesterday after new bombings rocked Pattani on Tuesday night.
The attacks, including one at a hotel that killed one person and injured 30, took place only 10 days after the spate of bomb and arson attacks in Prachuap Khiri Khan and six upper southern provinces killed four and injured more than 30 others including foreigners.
Officials and representatives of the southern separatist umbrella group Mara Patani reportedly were scheduled to meet to set the terms of reference for peace talks early next month.
Prawit said relative calm should be restored in the region before talks – official or otherwise – could proceed. He added that he did not know if the Malaysia-brokered peace dialogue would be postponed, as the leader of the Thai team, General Aksara Kerdphol, was still investigating the recent Pattani hotel bombing.
Prawit said the three recent bombings in Pattani were probably not linked to the series of bombings on August 12 targeting tourist areas, including Phuket, Koh Samui and Hua Hin.
“In the face of such restive activity, I would have security officers strictly oversee the region and implement public safety measures,” he said.
He added that security officers from central agencies would be dispatched to provide urgent support to locally stationed Army and police forces as well as to evaluate whether security measures needed to be adjusted.
Prawit also said he was scheduled to visit Malaysia by the end of this month to talk to his Malaysian counterpart about border issues, including the construction of fences and bridges as well as problems related to dual-nationality citizens.
Asked if plans for a partial withdrawal of forces from the deep South in October would proceed, he said the newly established 15th infantry division and the 5th infantry division should be able to handle the situation.
Aksara yesterday said the September 2 talks with separatists were uncertain pending a subcommittee report on the preparedness of the Thai team and the approval of Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha and the National Security Council.
After the first explosion, which did not cause any injuries, at 11pm on Tuesday night at a carpark behind the Southern View Pattani Hotel, another bomb – loaded in an ambulance belonging to Tambon Pakaharang Health Promotion Hospital – was detonated in front of the hotel about 100 metres from the first attack. That bomb resulted in 31 people being injured, including Orapan Sriruenhut, 35, a resident of Ubon Ratchathani province, who was pronounced dead at hospital.
A source from the bomb disposal team said the vehicle bomb was equipped with two home-made time bombs attached to two gas cylinders weighing totally 160kg, which were placed in the front seat of the ambulance.
The explosion also caused damage to 10 nearby shophouses and vehicles parked at the site, as well as the front windows and doors of the eight-storey hotel. A third blast later occurred in front of a fresh market in Tambon Bo Thong of Nong Chik district, but no one was injured.
Meanwhile, Public Health permanent secretary Dr Sopon Mekthon said the two drivers of the ambulance used in the vehicle-bomb attack had claimed they had lost the keys to the vehicle. He also said six of the 30 injured victims had required surgery and one was in critical condition as of press time.
National Human Right Commission chairman What Tingsamitr condemned the vehicle bombing and urged all parties to help to prevent terrorism in the deep South.
Meanwhile, the Cross-Cultural Foundation issued a statement offering condolences to Orapan’s family and the injured victims. The foundation added that that the arrests of suspects for the August 12 attacks and the upcoming peace dialogue might prompt some insurgent groups to launch attacks to demonstrate to the government and general public their capability to wreak violence.