Rebels sidelined from talks admit to Pattani blast

Two bomb attacks in the southern border province of Pattani on Friday resulted in one death and three injuries. (Photo supplied)

PATTANI: Rebels sidelined from peace talks claimed responsibility on Saturday for deadly bombings that broke a Ramadan truce agreed between the main rebel group and the government in the troubled southern border provinces.

The double bomb attack in Sai Buri district of Pattani on Friday left a fisherman dead and three explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) officers injured.

The explosions were carried out by G5, a militant group of the Patani United Liberation Organisation (Pulo), its president, Kasturi Mahkota, told Reuters.

Kasturi said by telephone that the blasts represent “business as usual” for Pulo, left out of the talks between the government and the Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN), which agreed two weeks ago to stop violence during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan through May 14.

Police were alerted to the first explosion at 3am on Friday when a villager identified as Surasak Dibuntham reported that a bomb had gone off by a pond in Moo 8 village in tambon Paen, said Pol Col Chaleomchai Phetkat, superintendent of Sai Buri district police.

They found another villager, Nawi Pramon, dead at the scene. He had gone fishing at the pond in the early hours, said Pol Col Chaleomchai. Police collected a flyer containing an illustration of a panther and text in the Malay language reading “Daulat tuanku G5 Askar di-raja Patani”, he said. Daulat tuan ku can be interpreted as “Long live the king” while Askar di-raja Patani translates as “Soldiers of the king of Patani”.

G5 has been involved in several bombings in the deep South, said Pol Col Chaleomchai.

The second blast went off at 7am while a bomb disposal team was working at the scene, injuring three of them, one of whom was severely injured, said a source.

Pulo G5 is a newly formed Pulo offshoot, said the source. Pulo, which usually operates under Mara Patani — an umbrella organisation of Malay-Muslim separatist fronts from southern Thailand — was not included in the most recent round of talks.

Gen Wallop Raksanoh, former National Security Council secretary-general, is leading the Thai negotiating team in the talks, which were arranged by a Malaysian facilitator.

Lt Gen Kriangkrai Srirak, commander of the Fourth Army Region, said security forces had been expecting an attack by a third party despite the Ramadan agreement. The army will next try to find out whether Pulo wants to engage in new talks, he said, adding the government is always ready to talk.

Lt Gen Thira Daewa, commander of the Fourth Region Army Corps, speaking in his capacity as secretary of the peace talks team, said the attacks appeared to be symbolically aimed at demonstrating Pulo’s anger at being excluded from the talks.

“The talks are not inclusive enough and it is going too fast,” said Pulo president Kasturi. He told Reuters that the group objects to any agreement that would exclude the possibility of independence from Thailand.

More than 7,300 people have been killed since 2004 in fighting between the government and insurgents in Narathiwat, Yala, Pattani and parts of Songkhla. The area was part of the Patani sultanate that Thailand annexed in a 1909 treaty with Britain.