The man was dressed like a Muslim woman, with his face covered and a long dress, when he entered the store at around 11:50 p.m., placing a black bag on the counter and urging staff and customers to flee if they “don’t want to die.” “. The bomb went off ten minutes later, injuring no one, Sala province police captain Sarayut Kochawong said on Wednesday evening. At around the same time, another 16 attacks occurred in southern Thailand, injuring seven people but killing no one. The assassins obviously wanted to make a statement without killing anyone.
It was targeting small shops and gas stations in southern Thailand’s Pattani, Yala, Narathiwat and parts of Songklah provinces, said Maj Gen Pramote Promin, spokesman for the Internal Security Operations Command (ISOC) in charge of the region. Around midnight, four men on two motorbikes drove past a 7-Eleven store in Bannang Sata district and threw a firebomb inside. Nearby, a bomb went off in a small “Mini Big C” supermarket in the Raman district and another in a cellphone signal tower.
Riots have been raging near the Malaysian border for decades. The army is fighting groups that want autonomy for the predominantly Muslim provinces, which feel badly treated by the country’s Buddhist majority. According to the Thai human rights organization Deep South Watch, which monitors the violence, more than 7,300 people have been killed in the conflict since 2004.
In recent years, opponents of the government in the South have frequently carried out attacks from moving cars or motorcycles. So far, however, coordinated attacks have only been carried out when the perpetrators wanted to create a bang that could be heard as far away as Bangkok and beyond Thailand – as in this case. Thailand is due to hold elections next spring. The junta, which seized power in 2014 and was confirmed in a semi-democratic election in 2019, is under pressure, mainly because of its poor pandemic management. Economic development was stalled, many Thais had to flee the cities back to their provinces, to the farms and homes of relatives because they could no longer earn any money during the lockdown.
The young demonstrators in Bangkok also reject military rule
Most recently, a wave of attacks shook the south in 2019. Men with guns stormed a Buddhist temple in Narathiwat, Thailand’s southernmost province, killing two monks and injuring two others. Malayan separatists were responsible. Human Rights Watch had condemned the violence at the time and particularly criticized the most active fundamentalist group for attacks on schools, places of worship and hospitals, the “Barisan Revolusi Nasional”, with which the government had recently been in talks again. Conversely, the Thai military was warned not to tolerate extrajudicial violence, including the execution of suspects.
But the separatists are dissatisfied with the conduct of the negotiations. No compromises were offered to them, neither in terms of autonomy, nor the preservation of their own languages, religion or amnesties for convicted comrades. The last democratically elected government had been willing to make even more concessions. Before the current administration under General Prayut Chan-o-cha banned all demonstrations with the blanket justification of fighting the pandemic, more and more people took to the streets in Thailand for democracy.
The demonstrators called for the government to resign in order to clear the way for new elections. They wanted the 2017 constitution, which spells out the army’s role in government, to be revised. And they demanded an end to the harassment and persecution of government critics. In their rejection of military rule, the young demonstrators in Bangkok are at one with the separatists in the south. Both groups hope that true democracy will bring greater freedom and opportunities.
But what was to be expected came from General Prayut Chan-o-cha: “The Prime Minister condemns these outrageous acts, which are obviously aimed at hurting innocent people and damaging property, since many overcrowded grocery stores are among the main targets,” said a government spokesman after the attacks in southern Thailand. The general has therefore instructed the security authorities to speed up their investigations so that those behind the attacks can be brought to justice.