Political bombs?

14 05 2015

Readers may recall the hocus pocus on the car bomb in Koh Samui and a fire at a Suratthani “cooperative” owned by Suthep Thaugsuban.

The bomb caused several injuries. There is little evidence about the culprits or about the reasons for the bombing. There has been no claim of responsibility. Yet everyone blamed “politics” and said the bomb was “aimed at challenging the government.” The military dictatorship more or less blamed red shirts, saying “there were ill-intentioned groups seeking an opportunity to disturb peace and instigate violence.” It even claimed that because it had cracked down so hard on dissenters in Bangkok that “the perpetrators have moved to other areas.” Anti-democrats like Democrat Party deputy leader Nipit Intarasombat said the bomb “was the work of anti-government groups and had nothing to do with the southern insurgency…. The culprits focused on a tourism place. They want to demonstrate their power…”. The junta also said that “the incidents are not related to the ongoing insurgency in the southern border provinces…”.

And so it went on. The cops rushed out and arrested a red shirt but later released him. Then, pretty much silence…. It seems the Rohingya human smuggling came along at the right time and shifted attention to this despicable trade (although we note that not a single rich admiral seems involved in this horrid set of events…).

At the time, PPT expressed skepticism, as we do about almost all cases where the military and police claim to know who the culprits are and to be close to catching them. One reason for skepticism is the penchant of the security agencies for bogus attacks and bombings that work in their interests.

For all of these reasons, PPT was intrigued by a story at The Diplomat. Referring to this case, the author puts the whole event in the context of the “stalled peace process in southern Thailand…”.

Current speculation links the incident to either the Malay-Muslim militants or to a new collaboration between the Malay-Muslim liberation movement and the Red Shirts, an anti-establishment force affiliated with the ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra. But there are several reasons why the Koh Samui car bomb is more likely to be a military attack by the Malay-Muslim liberation movement.

The modus operandi of this attack is in line with similar attacks by southern separatists. According to the police investigation, the car used to make the bomb was stolen from Yala’s Yaha district. Yala, Pattani, Narathiwat and four predominantly-Muslim districts in Songkhla are hotbeds of violent conflict, which has claimed more than 6200 lives since 2004. This is not the first time that the southern separatists have planted a car bomb outside their traditional theatre of operation. The Thai authorities do not formally count the commercial district of Hat Yai in Songkhla as part of the conflict zone, but for several years the area has witnessed a number of major coordinated bombings.

Previous bombings linked to the southern militants have several similarities to what happened in Koh Samui. Since 2004, there have been 44 car bomb incidents in Thailand’s four southernmost provinces. The first car bomb attack outside the insurgents’ traditional area of operation took place on 22 December 2013. On that day, attacks involving motorcycle and car bombs hit Songkhla’s Sadao district, injuring 27 people. Shortly after, a second car bomb was found on the resort island of Phuket, but the police defused it in time. The incident in Koh Samui could be another attempt to sabotage an area of economic significance, which is known to be one of the militants’ strategies.