‘Insurgency 'has crossed a
Published on Sep 19, 2006
- The crisis in the deep South crossed a new threshold
with the weekend
bomb attacks in Hat Yai, because of the scale of the damage
choice of targets.
However, targeting areas beyond Hat Yai is still a long way
security officials say.
The deputy commissioner of the Ninth Police Region, Maj-General
Thawidsri, said the attacks on Saturday night did not reflect
mindset of the vast majority of insurgents in the Malay-speaking
South, which includes the provinces of Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat,
and a couple of districts of Songkhla.
Authorities believe the Hat Yai bombings were carried out
by a cluster
of zealous operatives working under the leadership of Faisal
Isma-ae and Abdul Kamae Saleh.
The pair were linked to the Hat Yai Airport bombing in April
year, as well as the blitz in downtown Yala three months later.
latter incident featured a brief but deadly gunfight in the
Yala, as well as firebombs that torched a number of high-profile
places, including a karaoke bar and a shopping complex.
Hat Yai is not far from the boundaries of the troubled Malay-speaking
region - about 100km north of Pattani and about 50km east
of Saba Yoi,
a Malay-speaking district in Songkhla.
Thani, who has overseen the restive region for most of the
decades, said it was important to understand that the current
generation of militants in the deep South were organised into
independent cells of about five to eight people. There was
top-down, pyramidal chain of command and no suggestion that
evolve into conventional guerrilla outfits with designated
However, they had shown they can carry out simultaneous attacks.
More than 50 government offices and 22 banks have been hit
simultaneous bomb attacks in two separate incidents over the
Officials say these were largely designed to discredit the
rather than to damage for the sake of destruction. The bombs
small and contained no shrapnel.
But with their admission that insurgent violence in the deep
now spread to the commercial hub of non-Malay-speaking Hat
political leaders and security chiefs are effectively telling
public that the worst is yet to come.
>From caretaker Deputy Prime Minister Chidchai Vanasatidya
chief General Kowit Wattana, the official response is that
the Hat Yai
bombings were the work of Malay insurgents looking to separate
Malay-speaking South from the rest of the country. Yet the
that ripped through crowded bars and cafes, department stores,
and a massage parlour in the tourist hub of Hat Yai were in
that is not in the Malay-speaking South.
The bombs killed four people and injured more than 60, shattering
area's tourist industry and its business confidence, and raising
implications far beyond the Muslim-majority region, where
1,700 people have been killed since January 2004.
Police have questioned more than 40 witnesses, but have yet
down any significant leads.
A leading security expert, Assoc Professor Panitan Wattanayagorn,
Saturday's attacks showed the coordination and capability
of the group
involved was much higher than authorities believed, although
tactics - bombs attached to motorbikes - were more or less
He said the southern violence has crossed a new threshold
choice of targets and the scale of the damage had far-reaching
implications beyond the strife-torn region. And while the
in the deep South may be home-grown, the separatists showed
learned from foreign
militant and terrorist groups that tend to go after high-profile
places to create the greatest possible psychological impact,
"Repairing the economic infrastructure and the tourist
much harder than repairing damage inflicted on military and
targets," he said.
What was most worrying, Panitan said, was that every successful
usually leads to a bigger attack, more lethal, efficient and
than the first.