By Max Constant
The Thai army chief has implied that local politicians were behind a series of bombings which rocked the city of Yala in Muslim-majority southern Thailand last week.
The 36 remote-controlled blasts went off near markets, the university, the railway station, banks and commercial buildings from Thursday and Saturday, injuring 22 people.
“Local politicians, on the one hand, say they want to help restore peace, but on the other, provide support for perpetrators of violence to erode the government’s credibility,” General Udomdej Sitabutr told the Bangkok Post on Monday, before departing for Yala to check on the investigation into the bombings.
He gave no specific information on who the local politicians could be, but his words echoed a statement by Colonel Sansern Kaewkamnerd, a deputy-spokesman for the government, who suggested in the wake of a department store explosion on the southern island of Koh Samui in April, that the bombing was connected to national politics.
“As authorities have taken strict precautions in Bangkok, situations are being created elsewhere," Sansern said, alluding to two minor bombings in Bangkok at the beginning of the year.
"Authorities have found some links with incidents in Bangkok and are tracing suspects from clues at the scene," he added.
Despite Sansern's comments, no arrests have been made more than one month after the bombing, and no evidence found suggesting a link to politics.
"Everyone says they love the nation and they want to restore peace, but when conflicts with their personal aims arise, they choose to support the insurgent groups."
The army chief also outlined relations between the insurgency which has troubled the south for more than ten years, drug trafficking, human trafficking and local politics.
"Politics, the trade in humans and different ideologies are all interrelated," he said.
Deputy national police chief general Chakthip Chaijinda said Sunday that the perpetrators of the Yala bomb attacks had already been identified, but did not give more details.
Two days after the bombings, Pattani-based political scientist Srisompob Jitpiromsri told Anadolu Agency that the bombings were probably organized by some rebel factions which “disagree with other rebel factions about the peace talks that will take place in a few weeks’ time.”
Jitpiromsri is the director of Deep South Watch, an organization which has been documenting the conflict for ten years.
The Thai junta is preparing a new round of negotiations with some rebel groups either at the end of this month or at the beginning of June.
According to the BenarNews website, a new umbrella body called Mara Patani has been set up by several rebel groups, including the Patani United Liberation Organization (PULO) -- a movement set up in the 1960s -- and the National Revolutionary Front or BRN.
“The attacks are intended to send a message both to the government and to some of their partners,” he said.
“The junta makes a pre-condition of the talks that it should not touch upon any kind of self-governance or autonomy. It is a major obstacle for a successful peace dialogue”, he said.
The three southernmost Thai provinces -- Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat -- constituted an independent Islamic sultanate with great religious influence in the Southeast Asian Muslim world until it was incorporated into Siam after a 1909 anglo-siamese agreement.
Great Britain was then the colonial power in Malaysia and was exerting a degree of control over the region.
From 1938, a virulently nationalistic campaign organized by Field Marshall Phibulsongkhram government tried to impose Thai cultural norms onto the Malay Muslims, who reacted by asking for some degree of political and cultural autonomy.
Things turned for the worse in the 1960s, when the military dictator Field Marshall Tarit Sanarat attempted to control the Islamic boarding schools, locally known as pondoks.
Several Muslim groups then took up arms and waged a guerrilla war against the Thai state.Anadolu Agency website contains only a portion of the news stories offered to subscribers in the AA News Broadcasting System (HAS), and in summarized form. Please contact us for subscription options.