Car bomb meant to attack defence volunteers
The powerful car bomb explosion in Pattani township on February 9 which killed one passer-by and wounded 15 other people was believed to be targeted against defence volunteers gathering in front of the provincial hall to mark the Defence Volunteer Day.
Pol Maj-Gen Pichet Pitisitthipan, commander of the provincial police, disclosed that police had been warned a few days in advance that suspected Islamic insurgents might launch an attack against defence volunteers on the Defence Volunteer Day on February 9 when about 1,000 defence volunteers would gather in front of the provincial hall to commemorate this special occasion.
The provincial hall is about one kilometer away from the provincial public health office where the car bomb exploded. Besides the casualties, the public health office building itself sustained extensive damages. Eleven cars and two motorcycles were also damaged.
As a result of the warning Pol Maj-Gen Pichet said that the convoy carrying the defence volunteers did not use the main road which passes through both the provincial hall and the provincial health office but switched to a side road instead.
Informed police source said that surveillance cameras at the health office had captured the same explosives-laden Isuzu pick-up truck parking in front of the health office one day before the blast. The video showed the truck arriving at the scene at about 7 a.m. and two men left the vehicle and were picked up by a motorcyclist. Three hours afterward, the two men returned to the parked truck and drove away.
The same Isuzu pick-up truck returned to the parking lot on February 9 at about 7 a.m. and one hour later it went off.
The Pattani car bomb blast was the 28th of its kind for the past eight years since 2004. Of these, three took place in Pattani, seven in Yala and 18 in Narathiwat.
Altogether there have 2,265 bomb explosions, including 28 car bombs, in four southernmost provinces for the past eight years. The year-on-year statistics of bomb explosions are as follows: 2004, 104 incidents; 2005, 238 incidents; 2006, 327 incidents; 2007, 492 incidents; 2008, 267 incidents; 2009, 288 incidents; 2010, 248 incidents; 2011, 301 incidents.
Prior to the latest car bomb blast in Pattani, suspected insurgents detonated a roadside bomb in Ba Cho district of Narathiwat as six soldiers tasked with providing protection to teachers rode past the spot in three motorcycles. Two soldiers were injured in the attack which happened at about 7 a.m. on February 9.
Also on the same day in Tak Bai district of Narathiwat, one Malay Muslim was shot dead by assailants traveling in a pick-up truck. The motive of the killing was not known.
On Wednesday February 8, the House border affairs panel conducted an enquiry into the fatal shooting incident in Pattani’s Nong Chik district on January 31 in which four Malay Muslims on their way to a funeral were shot dead by paramilitary rangers. Five other people were also injured.
A member of the panel, Mr Abdul Karim Tengrakina, a Democrat MP of Yala, suggested that troops from outside the southernmost provinces should be withdrawn from the restive region and replaced by native troops from the Fourth Army Region.
He claimed that native troops would be more trusted by the locals than outsiders.
As a matter of fact, the army has already had a plan to pull out all regular troops from the strife-torn region and let paramilitary rangers to take over the responsibility of fighting the insurgency war.
At the moment, there are now seven regiments of rangers in the region with two more regiments to be deployed this year.