Explosions and fires have ripped through at least 17 locations in southern Thailand, authorities said, in what appeared to be multiple coordinated attacks that injured several people.
The bombings and arson attacks occurred late on Tuesday and in the early hours of Wednesday morning, military and police officials said.
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At least 17 attacks occurred in the southern provinces of Pattani, Narathiwat and Yala, mostly at small shops and gas stations, military spokesperson Pramote Promin said. At least three civilians were reported injured.
No one has claimed responsibility for the attacks so far.
Police Captain Sarayuth Kotchawong said he received a report shortly before midnight that a suspect had entered a shop at a gas station in Yala’s Yaha district, placed a black bag inside and warned employees to leave if they “do not want to die”.
The workers left before the bag exploded 10 minutes later.
Provinces in southern Thailand along the border with Malaysia have seen a decades-long, low-level rebellion, in which the Thai government has battled groups seeking independence for the predominantly Muslim provinces of Pattani, Yala, Narathiwat, and parts of Songkhla.
More than 7,300 people have been killed in the conflict since 2004, according to the Deep South Watch group, which monitors the violence.
Discontent in southern provinces
Muslim Thai people in the south have long charged they are treated like second-class citizens in the Buddhist-dominated country. Heavy-handed crackdowns by the Thai government have also fuelled discontent in southern provinces.
Military spokesman Pramote said the attackers were on motorcycles and in many cases threw petrol bombs at their targets.
“It is clear that the insurgents remain committed to using violence on people, damaging confidence in the economy, creating uncertainty and undermining the government system,” he said.
The wave of attacks follow after the Thai government earlier this year restarted discussions with the main rebel group, the Barisan Revolusi Nasional, after a two-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Peace talks that began in 2013 have faced repeated disruptions.
The Patani United Liberation Organisation (PULO), which was sidelined from the latest round of talks, carried out bombings during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, claiming the dialogue with the government is not inclusive. The organisation’s leader, Kasturi Makhota, told Reuters that the latest attacks have “nothing to do with PULO”.
The government has said it is ready to talk to all groups.
Rebel groups in the south generally stage hit-and-run attacks, such as drive-by shootings and ambushes with roadside bombs. They are also known for occasional coordinated attacks when seeking to make a political point with a show of strength.
In November 2019, gunmen killed 15 village defence volunteers and wounded five security personnel in what was believed to be the deadliest attack on government forces since the rebellion began.