Bangkok - The multiple bombings in Songhkla on April 3 have taken Thailand from a state of regional unrest in the deep South to a real threat of terrorist action against general civilian targets in other parts of the country, including Bangkok. Since the bombings, the National Security Council has put Thailand on the highest state of alert, boosting security at Western embassies, train terminals and department stores, and also reinforced 256 checkpoints in the Thai capital.
The decision to go to “red alert” came after a security meeting involving the Air Force, the Transport Ministry, Airports of Thailand and Thai Airways at the Royal Thai Air Force headquarters on April 5.
"The unrest in the country… together with other ongoing violence in the South, seems to be continuously intensifying,'' Air Combat commander ACM Chalit Pukpasuk said after the meeting.
“This has prompted the National Security Council and the armed forces to view the situation as deserving 'red alert' status, which is the most dangerous and riskiest degree and justifies 100% readiness. All security agencies are ordered to full alert to cope with any possible situation,” he added.
Under the Council's classification, "red alert" is a full 100% security alert, the highest state of alert following orange (80% readiness), yellow (50% readiness) and white (normal).
The Air Force is the core agency to ensure security measures at airports are strong and strict enough to cope with international terrorist acts.
The April 3 bombings in Songkhla had shocked Thailand because the province had until then been spared the violence in the other three southern provinces of Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat.
Two people were killed and more than 70 injured when bombs struck an airport and a Carrefour supermarket in Hat Yai city and a hotel in Songkhla city. The weekend attacks were followed by several grenade attacks and bomb blasts in other parts of the deep South.
The irony of the situation is that after 15 months of separatist violence in southern Thailand, little is known about the Muslim militants. They have yet to issue a manifesto and their leadership remains a mystery, reported Singapore’s The Straits Times.
“In the past, they came out and claimed responsibility, but these days, no one knows who does what for which cause. They’re keeping strict security,” said Mr Zahoe Wapa-o, a local leader knowledgeable about the separatist movements.
Some officials say the insurgents are getting outside military, ideological and financial support.
“Foreign terrorists are definitely involved and playing a major role in attacks like car bombs, and bombs detonated by phone signals. Local people don’t have knowledge of such things,” said Mr Ware-uma Waredoloh, a Muslim district administrator in Pattani.
* NSC puts country on 'red alert' (Bangkok Post, April 6)
* Bangkok Alert (The Straits Times, April 6)