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Attacks dampen hopes for peace talks in southern Thailand

Negotiations between Thai officials and representatives of Muslim separatists set to resume in March
Attacks dampen hopes for peace talks in southern Thailand

Police investigators inspect the wreckage of car bomb following an explosion outside the Southern Border Provinces Administrative Centre in Thailand's restive southern province of Yala on March 17, 2020. (Photo: AFP)

Published: February 24, 2022 04:54 AM GMT
Updated: February 24, 2022 05:10 AM GMT

An explosive device placed by suspected separatists at a level crossing in the Muslim-majority Thai province of Yala injured two policemen in the latest terror attack in the restive region.

The bomb was detonated on Feb. 23 just as a police patrol unit comprising an armored pickup truck and two motorcycles passed by, causing two officers to suffer non-life-threatening injuries.

A defense volunteer in a village of Narathiwat, another one of the restive provinces, was shot dead on the same day as he was riding his motorbike.

No suspects have as yet been identified but defense volunteers are routinely targeted by suspected insurgents.

Bombings and other attacks by insurgents who seek to achieve independence from Thai rule for four Muslim-majority provinces bordering Malaysia have been common in recent weeks.

On just one day late last month, Jan. 28, insurgents set off 13 explosive devices in the town of Yala. Among the targeted locations were convenience stores, shops, a market, an animal hospital and a car repair shop, but there were no fatalities, according to police.

I’m looking forward to learn about the outcome. But deep in my heart, I am preparing to lose as we all know what Thailand’s justice is like

The next day police killed two suspected insurgents following a 20-hour siege in Narathiwat.

The continuing violence has dampened hopes for the success of ongoing peace negotiations, which are expected to resume next month in Malaysia between Thai officials and the representatives of Muslim separatist groups.

Hardline separatists have previously said that they would accept no political resolution short of full independence for four southernmost Muslim-majority provinces that were annexed in the early 20th century by what was then the Kingdom of Siam. 

Despite a decades-long project by the Thai state to assimilate local Muslims, many ethnic Malays in the region have not reconciled themselves to being subjects of the Kingdom of Thailand.

Outright hostilities erupted in 2004 and violence has remained a feature of life ever since in the country’s southernmost provinces, taking well over 7,000 lives and causing some 14,000 injuries.

Rights advocates have accused both insurgents and security forces of committing rights violations, the former by targeting civilians and the latter by engaging in extrajudicial killings, arbitrary arrests and torture.

In one prominent case, a court in the province of Songkhla is conducting an inquest into the death of a suspected insurgent while in police custody in 2019.

A military-appointed panel earlier cleared Thai army officials of any role in the 34-year-old man’s death, saying an autopsy report found no signs of torture or foul play and attributed his death to pneumonia and septic shock.

However, the victim’s family has challenged those findings in court and the findings of an inquest are expected to be issued in May.

“I’m looking forward to learn about the outcome,” the man’s widow, Sumaiyah Minga, told a Malaysian newspaper this week. “But deep in my heart, I am preparing to lose as we all know what Thailand’s justice is like.” 

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