No link between latest Pattani blasts and attacks on resort towns: Thai govt

A forensics unit inspecting the site of a deadly bomb blast from previous night outside of a hotel in the southern province of Pattani on Aug 24, 2016.
A forensics unit inspecting the site of a deadly bomb blast from previous night outside of a hotel in the southern province of Pattani on Aug 24, 2016. PHOTO: REUTERS

BANGKOK • Thailand's military government yesterday said there was no connection between two bombings overnight that killed one person in the southern town of Pattani and a wave of deadly attacks on tourist spots earlier this month.

A Thai was killed and 30 wounded when two bombs exploded late on Tuesday at a hotel in Pattani, less than two weeks after a wave of bombings hit towns in seven provinces in the central south.

Police said the first explosion was in a carpark at the back of the hotel and caused no casualties.

The second blast at the front entrance was caused by a bomb placed in a stolen hospital vehicle.

The so-called "double tap" tactic is often adopted by southern insurgents, and was used in many of the recent attacks on tourist sites farther north.

"I am sure that the incident in Pattani... has nothing to do with the seven provinces' attacks," Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwan told reporters without elaborating.

Analysts said the militants in the south were sending a message in Pattani after the string of bomb attacks that struck multiple resort towns on Aug 11-12, killing four and wounding dozens, including foreigners.

The experts said the attacks in Pattani would appear to reflect frustration over stalled negotiations between the government and a handful of shadowy insurgent groups.

The talks began in 2013 under the civilian government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, but have stalled since the military overthrew her in 2014.

"It is possible that it is related to uncertainty about the peace talks," said expert Srisompop Jitpiromsri, who runs Deep South Watch, which monitors violence.

Tourist towns in the central south have for years been spared any spillover of violence from the deep south, and analysts said the government is loath to blame the coordinated bombings earlier this month on southern insurgents because of fears of damaging the tourist industry.

No group has claimed responsibility for the wave of bombings, but suspicion has centred on Muslim separatists based in the deep south of the predominantly Buddhist country.

Analyst Rungrawee Chalermsripinyorat, who has written two books on the conflict, said the blasts were likely the work of the Barisan Revolusi Nasional (National Revolutionary Front), which has carried out "similar patterns of attack" in the past.

"They could be sending a message to the government to take the peace dialogue more seriously," she said.

But the Defence Minister has said the military government would not talk with separatists until there is peace.

The war between government troops and insurgents has killed more than 6,500 people in the three southern provinces over the past 12 years.

There is deep distrust between Muslims and the authorities in the region, which rights groups say is partly due to decades of government neglect and a culture of impunity among military officials operating there.

The three provinces soundly rejected a referendum this month on a new military-backed Constitution, which passed convincingly in most of the rest of Thailand.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 25, 2016, with the headline 'No link between latest Pattani blasts and attacks on resort towns: Thai govt'. Print Edition | Subscribe