Bangkok - Fire extinguishers have become the latest lethal weapon in the militants’ arsenal in Thailand’s troubled deep South. On May 9, a mobile phone was used to detonate a fire extinguisher bomb exploded in Narathiwat, the ninth such device to be used there in recent weeks.
Last week, another fire extinguisher bomb hidden near a police unit in Sungei Golok district killed three policemen. “They were powerful bombs because the explosive was under pressure,” a Thai officer said.
The bombings followed the theft of a large quantity of fire extinguishers a few months ago. Since then, there have been more reported cases of single extinguishers being stolen.
Local police units in all 13 districts in Narathiwat have now been ordered to request businesses who own extinguishers - such as motorcycle repair shops, construction-material shops and scrap metal buyers – to register with the police so that inspections can be made.
Provincial police chief Colonel Kamol Photiyop said he believed shopowners who were sympathetic to the terrorists had hidden fire extinguishers in scrap metal shops.
He also said a number of bomb attempts had been undertaken with the help of owners of motorcycle repair shops, while tyre spikes used by terrorists had been made from nails bought from construction-material shops.
Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra noted that the militants’ tactics were constantly changing. He urged officials to be on alert for these shifts.
Around the middle of last year, insurgents began using improvised roadside bombs to target mainly the military and police. Many of the devices had been triggered by mobile phones, prompting the government to order telecommunications agencies and mobile phone operators to register all users of prepaid services. Earlier, it imposed controls on the sale of water pipes to prevent insurgents from making more pipe bombs.
Mr Thaksin also said that the authorities were keeping a close eye on known trouble-makers in some 60 villages throughout the South.
“We have learnt that leading militants are active in these 60 areas. They are attempting to divide the region from the rest of Thailand," Mr Thaksin said.
Officials will arrest key militants in the region as soon as they have sufficient evidence to prosecute them, the Prime Minister said.
* Militants spotted in 60 villages in South, says PM (The Nation, May 2)
* Fire extinguishers latest mode of delivery; 38 cylinders sought (The Nation, May 10)
* Fire extinguishers bomb threat (The Straits Times, May 4)