Bangkok – In a major show of force, the faceless militants in Thailand's deep South launched 30 coordinated attacks across the region on Oct 26, leaving six people dead and making off with about 40 firearms. The night-time attacks in the provinces of Narathiwat, Yala and Pattani took place over two hours.
"Initial reports show that the insurgents, attacked at about 30 points in three provinces, and took away dozens of guns from the houses of the village chiefs and from the village defence volunteers," a military spokesman was quoted as saying.
Seven of the attacks were raids on security outposts while the rest were ambushes.
The stolen guns were the largest number of firearms to be seized by insurgents in one operation since the raid on an army camp in Narathiwat on Jan 4, 2004. That raid, in which more than 400 firearms were stolen, was seen as the starting point for the ongoing violence in Muslim-majority South.
Lt-Gen Phalangkool Klaharn, an official with the Southern Border Provinces Peace-building Command, said that apart from stealing the firearms, the Oct 26 attacks were part of the militants' psychological warfare. The militants wanted to demonstrate to local residents that they were still capable of launching large-scale operations.
Security officials had, in fact, received an intelligence warning about a possible attack but were still caught off-guard by the insurgents' well-coordinated operation.
The attacks, each of which was carried out by a group of four to five men, were deliberately staged across a wide area to cause as much panic as possible, he added.
As they had done in the past, the insurgents scattered road spikes and felled several trees to block their escape routes.
The rising violence has prompted the army to reinforce troops in Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat. About 11,000 soldiers are currently deployed to combat unrest in the region.
* Armed militants go on firearm theft spree (Bangkok Post, Oct 27)
* Miltants raid guns in raids (The Nation, Oct 27)