A day after the horrific bomb attacks, the police and army are caught guessing as to why the terrorists are targeting Sunghai-Kolok. This article is very interesting because it reveals another interesting player in the ongoing strife plaguing the south: drugs and smuggling operations.
Interestingly, this time the suspect is a prominent member of the provincial administration … surprised?
For years the locals have been stressing the major problem with the southern insurgency is not actually the various terrorist groups which are out to liberate their hometowns from the grip of the central Thai government, but the fight to control the supply of drugs, palm oil, gasoline and other lucrative materials passing through the porous Thai-Malaysian border. –Perhaps someone new ticked off the wrong guy and hence the flare-up in tourist land?
SECURITY FORCES GIVE CONFLICTING REASONS FOR TRIPLE BLASTS
Police and the military appear in disarray as they attempt to make sense of the triple explosions in Narathiwat’s Sungai Kolok district on Friday which killed four people and injured 110.
While a military leader said Saturday the coordinated blasts were an act of retaliation against the government’s crackdown on drugs and oil smuggling, a police chief said local insurgents appeared to be stepping up their attacks, to target tourists.
Three Malaysians, including a three-year-old boy, and one Thai national died in the blasts near two hotels and a Chinese-Thai cultural centre.
The explosions took place in Soi 3 of Charoen Khet Road, which is an entertainment strip visited by Malaysian tourists.
The bombs were planted about 30-50m metres from one another and detonated 10 minutes apart.
The third bomb was the largest and is thought to have taken all four lives. It weighed about 40-50kg and was placed in the back of a pickup truck parked in front of a restaurant. The explosion also knocked out power and telephone lines.
The director of Sungai Kolok hospital said 19 Malaysian tourists were among the wounded. He said 40 people were still being treated for their injuries and the rest had been discharged.
Police said militants may have aimed to hurt tourists in the triple bombing, one of the largest in recent months in the Muslim-majority deep South.
“The insurgents intended to raise the violence to the level of international terrorism by targeting foreigners,” said Phaithoon Choochaiya, commander of the Southern Border Province police, during a visit to the injured at the town hospital yesterday.
Malaysia’s foreign ministry said it would work with Thai authorities to get to the bottom of the bombing. It said insurgent violence in the South had escalated.
A senior military figure, meanwhile, insisted drug dealers, who provide money for local militants, instigated the blasts in revenge for a recent drugs crackdown.
Maj Gen Akara Tiproj, deputy director of Internal Security Operations Command Region 4, said the attacks were related to a drug operation in Sungai Kolok district early last week.
“We believe the attacks are an act of retaliation against a raid on the house of an alleged major drug network member in Sungai Kolok last Tuesday,” said Maj Gen Akara.
On Sept 13, a joint task force of 300 security officers searched the house of Sami-ung Pao-adeh, 45, a member of the Narathiwat provincial administrative organisation, on suspicion he is involved in a drug trafficking ring.
Authorities confiscated five guns, ammunition, Malaysian currency and Thai cash, and list of alleged drug trafficking network members. They found no drugs in the house.
Maj Gen Akara said security authorities have found evidence, including video clips, indicating connections between the drugs racket and the insurgency movement.
Narathiwat governor Thanon Vejjakornkanont admitted the blasts could have been triggered by the crackdown on illegal activities.
He said the attacks are used to draw authorities away from their operations. “We can’t allow them to use violence to pressure or distract authorities,” he said.
Deputy national police chief Pol Gen Adul Saengsingkeow, in charge of stamping out insurgent violence in the deep South, said a core member of the insurgent group in Narathiwat has become involved in a drug trafficking ring.
“The group’s economic team controls the money and gives orders to operating teams.
“And it appears every time we make a major drug bust, the violence escalates,” he said.
Defence Minister Gen Yutthasak Sasiprapa said the blasts were the result of the government’s measures to fight drugs.
Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra yesterday called a meeting with Interior Minister Yongyuth Wichaidit and Army chief Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha following the attacks.
She said authorities would figure out the cause of violence and refrain from responding to the situation in kind.
Police believe the assailants worked in four groups _ three being responsible for planting the bombs, and the other for detonating the device.
They say a fourth bomb was found and destroyed before it was detonated.
The four dead victims were identified as Thai national Seksan Rojpanasiri, 38, and three Malaysians _ Wong Hong Yep, 64, Chan Yew Son, 50 and Wong Kai Sean, 3.
Five of the injured are security officers _Capt Theerapong Suwannawetch, Sgt Jetsada Piew-on, Cpl Wuttichai Muangloy, Pvt Sataporn Rodya and Pol L/Cpl Surat Wangkhahad.