Militants operating beyond three southernmost provinces
Southern militants have expanded their operations into other provinces, in addition to the three restive southernmost provinces of Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat as well as certain districts of Songkhla province, according to Panitharn Wattanayakorn, an advisor to Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan.
He said that one of the suspects, who was caught at the scene of one of the explosions during the weekend, is being held in custody for questioning, adding that the militants had set up safe houses outside the three southernmost provinces for secret meetings and some local residents are supporting them by acting as scouts.
An expert in security affairs, Panitharn said that Thai military intelligence had warned about possible violent attacks by southern militants outside the three southernmost provinces, especially in the lead-up to the March 24th general election.
At least nine bomb explosions were reported in Satun and Phatthalung provinces late Saturday night and early Sunday morning. Authorities say the bomb blasts were not intended to kill or maim but to intimidate.
Prior to the weekend’s incidents, the two provinces had been relatively calm and free from militant activity. Although predominantly Muslim, Satun province is peaceful and a popular tourist destination thanks to its pristine islands and beaches.
Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister Prawit, who is in charge of security affairs, claimed today that the multiple bomb attacks in Phatthalung and Satun provinces were not politically motivated. He is due to fly to Phatthalung and Satun provinces today to get a first-hand briefing about the bombings and to give moral support to officials in the two provinces.