Tourist town attackers linked to Muslim insurgency
TWO suspects in a spate of bomb attacks on Thailand’s tourist towns have links to southern Muslim rebels, police said, the first time a clear link has been made to the insurgency.
No one has claimed responsibility for the bombing and arson spree which hit popular resorts across the south this month, killing four and wounding dozens including European visitors.
But the attacks have heightened concerns the ethnic Malay insurgency may have spread north after years of stalled peace talks – a theory the country’s junta has played down given the importance of tourism to the economy.
Three arrest warrants have now been issued by a military court – all for Muslim men from the south.
Usmeen Katemmadee, a 29-yearold from Pattani named in the latest warrant issued on August 29, is wanted for bomb possession and arson over an attack on Hua Hin, where a double blast killed two people.
Two earlier warrants were for a man called Ahama Lengha from Narathiwat province and for a man named Russalan Baima from neighbouring Songkhla.
Until now the violence has remained almost entirely local, with the militants wary of attacking foreigners for fear of sparking an international backlash.
But in recent days the police investigation has increasingly pointed toward the deep south.
Thailand annexed the culturally and linguistically distinct zone bordering Malaysia over a century ago.
Resistance to Thai rule has existed for decades, but a full-blown insurgency kicked off in 2004 and driveby shootings and roadside bombs are now a near-daily occurrence.
Violence in the deep south has lessened since generals seized power in a May 2014 coup.
But there has been a noticeable uptick in attacks more recently, particularly around the time of a referendum earlier this month on a new constitution penned by the junta.
The charter was approved by a majority of voters but rejected in the three insurgency-racked provinces.
Speaking to reporters on August 29, former army chief turned Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said meetings between the government and rebel intermediaries have taken place in Malaysia but insurgents must halt their attacks.
“I think the violence should be stopped and we will then talk about what will we do,” he said, adding that he opposes any escalation of the conflict. –
Prayut Chan-o-cha says he wants to stop the violence.