Thailand’s military government said on Wednesday there was no connection between two bombings overnight that killed one person in the southern town of Pattani and a wave of deadly attacks on popular tourist spots in the south this month. One Thai person was killed and 30 wounded when two bombs exploded late on Tuesday at the Southern View Hotel in the coastal town of Pattani, less than two weeks after a wave of as yet unexplained bombings hit seven provinces in the south.
No group has claimed responsibility for those bombings, which killed four and wounded dozens, including foreign tourists. Some security experts noted at the time that southern insurgent groups have a track record of carrying out coordinated bombing attacks. Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwan however quickly ruled out any link between those attacks and the twin bombs in Pattani.
“I am sure that the incident in Pattani last night has nothing to do with the seven provinces attacks,” Prawit told reporters at Bangkok’s Government House, without giving any further details. Police said the first explosion in a carpark at the back of the hotel in Pattani caused no casualties. However, the second blast outside the hotel entrance appeared to have been a bomb placed in a stolen hospital pick-up truck that had been mistaken for an ambulance.
Since 2004, a low-intensity but brutal war between government troops and insurgents has killed more than 6,500 people in the three southern provinces of Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat that border Malaysia. Peace talks between the government and a handful of insurgent groups began in 2013 under the civilian government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, but have stalled since the military overthrew her in 2014.
Prawit said the military government would not enter talks with separatist groups until there was peace in the region. “It has to be peaceful first and then we can discuss,” Prawit told reporters. Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha said after his weekly Cabinet meeting on Tuesday there were ‘no quick fixes in the south’.
Still, the military insists that security in the south has improved and has said it would reduce the number of soldiers posted there from October. Some 60,000 troops will be stationed in the south this year, down from 70,000 in 2011, said Colonel Yutthanam Petchmuang, deputy spokesman for the military’s Internal Security Operations Command. “When we see the situation constantly improving … we gradually remove soldiers,” Yutthanam said.
There is deep distrust between Muslims and authorities in the region, which rights groups say is partly due to a culture of impunity among military officials operating in the south. The three provinces soundly rejected a referendum earlier this month on a new military-backed constitution, which passed convincingly in most of the rest of Thailand.