YALA: National Police Chief General Chakthip Chaijinda travelled to Yala in response to the bombings and urged police to speed up investigations and reaction times to such crimes which he described as the work of gangsters.

A bomb attack launched yesterday on a provincial government administrative building in Yala was in retaliation for losses inflicted by Thai forces on separatist guerillas in a newly launched offensive. It was followed within hours by the killing of three insurgents in an ongoing siege taking place on the Pattani Dam River between elite military units and fighters of the Barusi Revolusi Nasional (BRN), some of whom have been linked to previous attacks or atrocities.

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The Commissioner-General of the Royal Thai Police, General Chakthip Chaijinda visited Yala on Tuesday in response to the bombing and urged a swift response by police against what he called the ‘gangsters’ who had perpetrated the attack. It is understood that the bombing was a reprisal for recent losses by the insurgent group in a week-long offensive against the group on the Pattaya Dam River. Three insurgents were killed on Tuesday evening by elite Thai forces (inset) following the bombing according to a spokesman for Internal Security Operations Command, Region 4.

25 people were injured including some requiring surgery when two explosions went off outside a provincial government building in Yala on Wednesday.

The attack is believed to be the work of insurgents in response to an intensive push by the Thai army against guerrilla fighters with Barusi Revolusi Nasional in the Pattani Dam River in Yala.

On Tuesday, just hours after the explosions, Thai security forces killed three guerilla fighters in tambon Ta Se.

It was part of an ongoing week-long operation against insurgents in the area that has inflicted heavy casualties on the BRN.

Killed insurgents linked to November outrage which saw 14 village volunteers and a police officer killed

This follows an upsurge in attacks in the three southern Thai provinces of Yala, Narathiwat and Pattani in recent times as the guerilla war for independence rages on. The fighting has been renewed since last year with more determination and ferocity.

As well as an attack last week, in which 4 were injured, a late-night attack in early November saw 14 Thai village volunteers and a police officer killed in an elaborate and extended assault on a checkpoint in Tung Sadao Village, again in Yala province.  The BRN fighters were armed with automatic and heavy calibre weapons.

It is understood that Thai security services have advanced intelligence on the BRN and, in particular, those involved in orchestrating the insurgency.

Guerilla war waged by the Barusi Revolusi Nasional

The guerilla war is being waged for the independence of the three provinces which up until 1908 formed part of the independent sultanate of Pattani.

Before its annexation, the sultanate had for over a century been ruled under the hegemony of the Thai Kingdom of Siam.

After the stunning attack last November, Thai authorities acknowledged that the Barusi Revolusi Nasional was the political organisation directing the insurgency.

On January 20th last, negotiations between Thai officials and the leadership of the group began in Malaysia. At the talks, the BRN was represented by Anas Abdulrahman, a key leader.

Insurgency also linked to Islamic fundamentalism

The insurgency broke out in 2004 and it is linked to Islamic fundamentalism which is on the rise throughout Southeast Asia.

The violent movement has a stated aim of creating an Islamic state governed by strict sharia law. The area comprising the provinces has a population which is 80% Muslim in contrast to the rest of Thailand which is predominantly Buddhist.

The region has also been ravaged by a chronic drug problem among young people and relatively high levels of unemployment. Indeed, many locals in the three provinces see these issues as the main driver of the insurgency.

By contrast, local leaders and the insurgents themselves see the problem is one of ideology according to a report in 2019 for The Asia Foundation.

Thai sources also suspect an economic motive for the new campaign of violence linked with gold

However, some security sources suggest another alternative. That is that the recent resurgence of fighting may have given those fighting economic motives and means.

There have been a number of high profile gold robberies in the area in recent times that have spurred on the movement including a raid in Songkhla last August in which ฿85 million may have been netted by the group.

It is reported that two of the guerillas killed by Thai security forces on Tuesday were part of the insurgent force which attacked the local village checkpoint on November 6th last, killing 15 and leaving 5 wounded.

Police, at the time, also linked those involved in that raid to the Hangthong Suthada gold shop heist in Na Thawi last August.

Thai police chief urges swift arrest of gangsters

On Wednesday, Thailand’s National Police Chief, Chakthip Chaijinda, visited the scene of the bombing and urged top security officials and police to speed up the collection of information associated with such crimes.

He indicated that he wanted to see a rapid response and arrests of those culpable whom he labelled as gangsters.

He told senior police officers that this was necessary to preserve the confidence and security of the public, tourists and investors in the region.

Bomb attack occurred as southern governors met with officials to discuss the coronavirus outbreak

The bombings in Yala occurred at the Southern Border Provinces Administrative Centre at the same time as a meeting was being attended by governors for 5 provinces to discuss the response in the south to the coronavirus emergency.

The meeting had been convened by Rear Admiral Somkiart Pholprayoon, the secretary-general of the centre. It was also attended by senior health officials.

After the meeting, Rear Admiral Somkiart called on the public in the south to support authorities working to protect lives. 

‘On the one hand, we have people trying to improve the quality of life for everyone, while on the other there are some people who are doing anything and everything to destroy lives,’ he warned.

Attack commenced at 10.30 am with a hand device thrown into the government compound in Yala

Yesterday’s attack began at 10.30 am when a hand device or grenade was thrown into the precincts of the administrative centre.

This was followed 15 minutes later by the explosion of a homemade device planted in a white truck near the entrance to the complex.

Police report that the two bombs were homemade, one weighing 10kg and the other 30kgs.

The devices caused damage within a 30-metre radius including blown-out windows and the destruction of the truck.

Soldiers, police and media among the wounded

Among the wounded yesterday were five police officers and two soldiers, among them, 31-year-old Theerapol Jeenmai and 44-year-old Colonel Jessada Pinasuwan. 

Five reporters were also injured including 60-year-old Mukata Harai of Modern Nine TV who later had to undergo emergency surgery to remove bomb fragments from near his heart. 

The other reporters included 30-year-old Wamadee Ramansiriwong from Nation TV and Budeeman Chahao from Thai PBS.

Further reading:

Suspect arrested linked to Yala outrage as top brass face up to a new threat in the South

Thai court issues warrants for two southern insurgents linked to ฿85 million gold heist in Songkhla