BANGKOK, Thailand Aug 17 (NNN-Bernama) Tight security in the three southernmost provinces of Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat could have fuelled yesterday’s robbery-cum-explosion by a group of armed men at the Nathawee district in Songkla, southern Thailand.
In commenting on the incident, Deputy Prime Minister Gen Prawit Wongsuwan said the militants changed their target due to the increased security measures employed by the security forces in the three conflict-ridden provinces.
The security measures in Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat are tight and that is why the militants changed their target and conducted the violence in the Thepa district, Songkla province, instead, he told reporters after attending an official function here today.
Prawit, who is also defence minister, said despite the incident having occurred outside the three southernmost provinces, the security forces reacted quickly and managed to bring the situation under control.
The security forces, he said, had also identified four of the suspects involved in yesterday’s incident.
In the 11.40am incident yesterday at Wangto Car Centre, Nathawee, a group of seven armed men stormed the shop and held four of its employees as hostages before escaping with five pick-up trucks.
The gunmen later rigged three of the stolen pick-up trucks with homemade bombs but the security forces managed to defused one of the car bombs in an encounter in Nongchik, Pattani about two hours later, where one suspected gunman was shot dead.
One of the hostages was also confirmed killed in the skirmish.
Another stolen pick-up truck which was equipped with approximately 80kg of explosives exploded on a road in Nongchik about 2pm local time, injuring four soldiers.
The police later found the other two trucks abandoned at a road-shoulder in the province, while another vehicle which was also rigged with explosives exploded outside a police station in Mayo, Pattani early this morning.
Meanwhile, Army Chief Gen Chalermchai Sittisart told reporters today the militants had been trying to recruit new members to its ranks, especially men who were not tainted with any criminal record.
The perpetrators could be the ‘white faces’, people who have no criminal record, he said, adding the militant groups thought their new recruiting tactics would make it difficult for the authorities to monitor their movements.
Source: NAM NEWS NETWORK