“In an apparent response by separatist militants to Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont’s peace visit.” Thai Jihad Update. By Chalee Boonsawat for Reuters:
NARATHIWAT, Thailand (Reuters) – Three bombs went off in Muslim southern Thailand on Friday, killing one person and wounding 27, in an apparent response by separatist militants to Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont’s peace visit the previous day.
Police said the first bomb, a 15 kg (33 lb) device hidden in a fire extinguisher, hit a Humvee carrying five soldiers in Narathiwat, one of the three southernmost provinces where more than 1,800 people have been killed since January 2004.
The second and third bombs were detonated by mobile phones around an hour later at a tea shop and in a nearby street in the provincial capital of the same name. One person was killed and 22 people were wounded, police said.
Since his appointment by the army after a September coup against Thaksin Shinawatra, Surayud has launched a major peace drive in the Muslim-majority, Malay-speaking region.
He has apologized for Thaksin’s iron fist approach and stated a desire for talks with the rebels.
The suspected Muslim separatists, who have never made their goals public or claimed responsibility for any attacks, appear to be responding with coordinated bomb attacks and an increase in violence against civilians.
Bombs exploded almost simultaneously at eight car and motorcycle showrooms on November 9, the day after Surayud’s previous visit to the region, which used to be the independent sultanate of Pattani until annexed by Bangkok a century ago.
Analysts said the militants appeared to be sending a message to the former army chief, who commands wide respect in all parts of Thailand, including the southern provinces bordering Malaysia, not to get involved.
“Surayud presents a far greater threat to the militants than anybody else,” said Brian Dougherty of Bangkok-based security consultants Hill and Associates.
“They probably enjoyed having Thaksin because he was universally hated in the south, whereas Surayud is welcomed and liked. They cannot allow his programs, his new approach, to be effective,” he said.
True, it may have been easier to muster public sentiment in the south against Thaksin, but the rest of the article supports the notion that Surayud’s ascent to power and subsequent policies have sent the jihadists the signal that they are winning, and should only press on. If there is a rivalry between them and Surayud that poses a “threat” to them, it may be more usefully compared to the rivalry between Hamas and Mahmoud Abbas: Differing methods, but neither can be trusted to procure an outcome that is not disastrous for non-Muslims.
Since September, the month of Thaksin’s removal, Dougherty said the daily violence was claiming almost three times as many civilians victims as before, a clear indication of a shift in tactics.
In one week alone, 90 percent of casualties were civilian, the remaining 10 percent being described as “officials” — anything from soldiers and border police to village volunteers and local government bureaucrats.
“Insurgent groups are targeting civilians to show their power and highlight the Thai government’s weakness,” said Brad Adams of New York-based Human Rights Watch.
“But it’s illegal and morally indefensible to attack civilians in pursuit of political goals.”
Ask the jihadists their definition of “civilian.”