Some security sources have identified a shadowy separatist revolutionary group with a paramilitary arm known as the Barusi Revolusi Nasional as the force behind a renewed insurgency driven and financed by robberies such as the raid on the Hangthong Suthada gold shop in Na Thawi at the end of August.
Thai security services have arrested one suspect linked with the devastating attack on Tuesday night on a Yala village checkpoint in which 15 local volunteers and security personnel were killed. The attack is also being linked with a robbery on a gold shop in Songkhla at the end of August in which up to ฿85 million in gold was taken in a robbery executed with military-style precision. In addition, the escalation of insurgency activity is forcing many security officials to face up to the fact that a separatist and Islamist movement identified as the Barusi Revolusi Nasional is the prime mover behind the recent uptick in seperatist hostilities which since 2004 has seen over 7,000 lose their lives in Thailand’s southern provinces.
Some Thai security service personnel believe that the lethal attack that occurred on Tuesday night and into the early hours of Wednesday on a security checkpoint in Yala province may have been the work of the Barusi Revolusi Nasional, a shadowy group that seeks to establish an independent Ismalist state in the southern provinces centred on Pattani.
Suspect arrested in connection with the attack
On Friday, authorities arrested a suspect connected with the attack who was found wearing black army fatigues and carrying ammunition which Thai security services have been able to link to a number of insurgent attacks including the elaborate robbery of a gold shop in the Na Thawi district of Songkhla province in which at one stage, it was claimed ฿85 million in gold was stolen. Later police reports suggested, however, a lower figure.
Proceeds from the heist believed to have been taken into Kedah state in Malaysia
The heist was later attributed to key players in the southern insurgency and it was understood that the haul and proceeds from it were taken south through the Malaysian border into Kedah state.
The arrest of the suspect occurred on Friday night.
He was taken to Ingkayut Borihan, a military facility in Pattani province. It is understood that he is a Thai national from the Khok Pho district of Pattani.
Security forces have identified key insurgency leaders associated with the lethal attack
Security officers have identified two key insurgency leaders who they believe to be associated with the attack. There are Hubaidila Romueli who is reported to be a leader of insurgents active in the Yaha and Kabang districts of Yala and a man named as Amat Tunenga in the Meuang district where the attack was carried out earlier in the week.
Group identified as the Barusi Revolusi Nasional
The belief that the latest outrage and string of recent attacks are linked to the Barusi Revolusi Nasional is gaining credence but has for a long time been played down by officials in the south reluctant to acknowledge that the insurgency is becoming more organised and structured.
Fighting for an Islamic state within the southern provinces and behind a murderous campaign
The group is understood to be fighting to create a separatist state based on the former sultanate of Pattani which was annexed by Thailand in 1909 and even at that point, was long under Thailand’s hegemony. The group is believed to be behind an insidious campaign to murder teachers in the region and to impose strict Islamic teaching on the population.
Other sources are linking the attack on Tuesday night and Wednesday morning to the deaths of two suspected insurgents in the Sai Buri district of Pattani the week previously.
Ferocity, duration and organised nature of Tuesday’s attack has shocked local villagers
The ferocity and well-organised nature of the assault on Tuesday, has put locals in Tung Sadao Village in the Lam Phaya subdistrict of the Mueang area of Yala where the attack occurred on guard against the escalating threat posed by the insurgent group.
Only 2 defenders from 22 were left uninjured
Villagers were particularly shocked at how long the violent assault persisted and the horrific carnage in its aftermath. It is understood that between 10 and 30 attackers were involved in the onslaught on the checkpoint in the village with military-grade weapons.
The makeshift facility was manned by 22 volunteers including a police captain pursuing an investigation. Only two of the defenders were left injured with eleven fatalities on the spot. Four died later after they were removed to hospital.
Heartbreak among families and community
The attack has brought heartbreak and suffering to people in the closely-knit community. 40-year-old Sarinya Chaiya was left mourning her husband of 10 years, Samsami Sama. She heard the shooting and the attack on the checkpoint but could only pray her husband would be safe. After midnight, the village headman brought her the bad news.
Ms Sarinya had moved from Thailand’s northern province of Phayao to marry her husband 10 years ago. Now she is considering moving back with her 3-year-old daughter. ‘I still don’t know what to do with my life yet,’ she explained.
Villagers had been warned about strange looking younger visitors in the locality days earlier
Local villagers reported that an army ranger had warned them leading up to the attack that strange young men or teenagers had been seen in the area.
The attack came after a bomb attack on army rangers three months previously. They point out that this was not a matter of complacency.
Change of security tactics now required
The stunning attack has prompted Thai army leaders to suggest a change of tactics relating to the use of volunteers in security operations and the need for more mobile operations.
The Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan ocha, a former army chief, has also called for the army to rethink its operational plans in the light of the outrage.
Senior army officials believe the attackers are living within the villages and among the population
Lieutenant General Phonsak Phunsawat, who is the commander of the 4th army in the southern provinces, has said that he believes that those who took part in the raid are living among the villages in the affected provinces as opposed to operating from remote locations as such groups have done in the past.
Thought that up to 30 insurgents took part in the attack that left 15 dead and 5 injured
It is thought that the attack on the checkpoint itself involved 10 to 15 insurgents while a similar number were involved in burning tyres, laying spikes on the road and blowing up a utility pole which came crashing on to the road.
This impeded the arrival of rescue services while the insurgents took away an assault rifle, 5 pistols and number of shotguns from the scene of the attack.
Government announcement gives powers to impose curfews on some districts in 4 provinces
On Friday, the Thai Royal Gazette published a measure allowing the Internal Security Operations Command (ISOC) to impose a curfew on prescribed areas in Songkhla, Narathiwat, Yala and Pattani provinces from December 1st for a period of 1 year.
No immediate plans for a curfew
Thai security officials have come out to explain that moves to implement this measure predate the attack that occurred on Tuesday 5th November. They have also confirmed that there are no plans, at this stage, to impose a curfew in any area within the named provinces and the districts specified.
Colonel Pramote Prom-in on behalf of the Internal Security Operations Command for Region 4 denied local media reports of a planned curfew sparked by the official announcement in the Royal Gazette: ‘There is no immediate urgency to impose a curfew, and people should not be frustrated.’
Meanwhile, senior military officers have, however, ruled out any prospect of lifting current emergency security laws as they grapple with the challenging new security situation.