Tourist town at­tack­ers linked to Mus­lim in­sur­gency

The Myanmar Times - - World -

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. –

Photo: AFP

Prayut Chan-o-cha says he wants to stop the vi­o­lence.

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