The attack in Narathiwat appeared to deploy several groups of armed men to thwart and divert a security response while they robbed a large department store selling gold.
Police in Narathiwat are investigating an elaborate raid on a department store and several villages in the Tak Bai district of the province on Sunday morning. Large groups of armed men attacked security checkpoints, downed electricity poles but failed to gain access to a gold job, which appeared to be the object of the attack. The main body of attackers fled by boat to Malaysia. During the attack, the owner of the department store, which sold gold, picked up a 20 kg explosive device and threw it into a tank after it was placed against the front door of the premises.
Police and security authorities in Narathiwat province are investigating an attempted gold shop robbery on Saturday night in the Ja He area of the Tak Bai District.
The attack which failed spectacularly involved a large group of heavily armed men planting ten bombs at six locations while throwing pipe bombs and firing at security checkpoints.
Raider’s goal was to prevent an effective security forces response as a large group of men tried to enter the department store at 1.30 am in the morning
Undoubtedly, the goal was to prevent security forces from reaching the targeted premises as they sought to break in and remove its gold.
On Sunday morning, police forensic officers assisted by the military, reviewed CCTV footage from the area near the gold shop, a large and well-known store which, surprisingly, the nighttime attack force could not penetrate.
A briefing on the attempted robbery was given on Sunday by Police Major General Chalermphon Khamkhieo, the Commander of the Special Investigation Division in Narathiwat province.
He was accompanied by Mr Preecha Nuannoi, the province’s Deputy Governor, with other security and government officials.
Target was the Thong Saeng Charoen Department Store in the Ja He area of Tak Bai, which retails a large stock of gold. Owner threw device into a tank
During the incident late at night, the attackers bombed several electricity poles, which fell.
At the same time, the group which infiltrated the district at various points fired gunshots using automatic assault weapons at several security checkpoints.
Police believe the attack was a coordinated operation involving several units, the main body of which fled by sea across Malaysia.
Security officials investigating the incident believe that the target of the operation was the Thong Saeng Charoen Department Store in the Ja He area of the Tak Bai District on the Southeastern Coast of Narathiwat on the Gulf of Thailand, which borders Malaysia.
Armed explosive device weighed 20kg
Mr Pipat Wongchaisri owns the business.
At some point on Sunday morning, he discovered an improvised explosive device and threw it into a water tank to subdue its impact.
The device weighed 20 kilograms in a fire extinguisher, had a digital ignition attached, and was armed. It was placed at the entrance door to Mr Pipat’s premises.
The businessman briefed the police at the scene and showed them the entrance to his gold shop, which took the force of the explosion but withstood it, as it was a double-layered sliding steel door.
Even from within the tank, the bomb, when detonated by the armed raiders, caused extensive nearby damage but failed to open the doors to the gold shop
On Sunday, police forensic officers found fragments of the device in seven different properties across the street, and a two-storey commercial building suffered broken front glass and damage to doors and its roof.
Police investigating the attack on Sunday found a secondary point of attack on the commercial premises where the attackers had used pipe bombs to try to gain access at the back of the building.
One of the pipe bombs had failed to explode, but others had been unable to allow the frustrated attackers a breakthrough.
At different locations subject to attack on Sunday morning, including at security checkpoints, police recovered more than 100 M16 and AK assault rifle bullet casings.
Armed groups attacked electricity poles at villages on two roads leading to Tak Bai with bombs as well as security checkpoints with assault rifles
Police discovered that the attackers had also used explosive devices in a nearby village, Humoranat Village, including 20-kilogram devices in a fire extinguisher attached to a digital timer.
The attackers carried out a similar explosion on two electricity poles, which fell but did not block the road.
Police at various locations found several unexploded devices of a similar nature, which had been placed at other electricity poles but failed to go off.
At some villages, both on the Tak Bai Ban Taba Road and the Su-ngai Kolok Road, police found the road blocked.
On the latter main road, police found it blocked with ten broken electricity poles, having fallen across the traffic path.
Diverted traffic on Sunday with roads blocked at some locations by fallen electricity poles while electricity company workers worked on restoring supply
On Sunday, this disrupted traffic in the area, with police on duty to reroute vehicle traffic to other points.
At the same time, workers from the Provincial Electricity Authority arrived in Tak Bai to carry out urgent repairs.
Power was cut to some areas as a result of the attack.
At a sixth point in another village on the Tak Bai Suk Su-ngai Kolok Road, police found another damaged electricity pole that had not fallen across the road.
In contrast, one pole was left undamaged with an unexploded device attached, which police neutralised and retrieved from the scene.
The attackers appeared to have let off explosions in six different locations, and police have extensive CCTV camera evidence showing them moving in the dark.
The groups of attackers were masked, dressed in black and appeared heavily armed with assault rifles.
At one point, police observed 13 attackers walking past the gold department store and participating in the failed effort to access the valuable gold stock.
Force of 13 armed men escaped by boat to Malaysia
The CCTV footage also showed the attackers desperately trying to break down the locked entrance to the gold shop, but, amazingly, the doors to the premises were not damaged.
Investigators surmise that the objective was to obtain the gold in the shop.
At the same time, other groups of attackers fired on security checkpoints and blacked roads as a diversion and to slow down a police response.
Earlier, after receiving reports of the disturbances, police officers from Tagbai Police Station rushed to the scene as well as officers with the Water Police.
The main body of attackers believed to be 13 in number, escaped to the side of the local hotel, the Tabar Plaza Hotel.
At that point, they boarded a boat and were driven at speed across the border to Malaysia.
Police believe that others may have been involved in the attack responsible for bringing down the electricity poles at various points and that these may have escaped into the locality.