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Monday, February 19, 2007

Simultaneous Attacks in Southern Thailand Rock Chinese New Year's Celebrations

By Zachary Abuza

In the first time in several months, Muslim insurgents in southern Thailand executed near simultaneous attacks across four provinces in the troubled south.

Ethnic Chinese celebrating the start of the lunar new year were the primary targets. There were roughly 40 bombings and arson attacks that began around 7PM. Eight people were killed (five in drive by shootings) and 62 wounded by the bomb blasts. Insurgents targeted karaoke bars, hotels and other night spots, as well as department stores and gas stations. A power transmission station was also hit, throwing much of Yala into darkness. Yala was hit with 24 bombs, 7 in Betong town, alone. There were 5 bombs in the border town of Sungai Golok, a town with a large Chinese population. The two bombs in Songkhla Province cause considerable alarm to authorities in Bangkok, as the province tends to be a bellweather of whether the insurgency is spreading beyond the three Muslim dominated provinces. One bomb was placed at the door of an army major’s house, killing him. Two bombs were found and defused in a department store. Most of the bombs were 2-3kg ammonium nitrate-based devices placed in metal canisters or fire extinguishers and detonated with small digital watches. In addition to the bombings, two more schools were arsoned.

Some 2,000 people have been killed in the insurgency since January 2004. There has been a sharp up-tick in the violence since the military coup on 19 September 2006 deposed former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. Despite a sharp increase in deaths, there had not been a major coordinated attack across all four provinces since August 2006. Thai authorities remain unable to quell the violence.

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