Three people were killed and 20 injured in a gun and bomb attack in Thailand's Deep South on Monday, worsening the security situation in the insurgency-wracked region and threatening to derail peace talks scheduled for later this week.
The police said two bombs attached to motorcycles exploded simultaneously in two locations in Narathiwat province around midday. "The explosions killed one person and 11 people are seriously injured", said Narathiwat Police Maj. Gen. Patanawut Angkhanawin. "Nine others are being treated for minor injuries," he added.
According to the police, the two bombs were similar to explosive devices used in two attacks earlier this month.
This incident took place right before the proposed informal discussions between the Thai government and the local rebels this week.
Since February, a number of people were killed in attacks by suspected rebels and the latest incident has added to that total number of fatalities.
Amid rising tensions, Thai security forces raided a suspected insurgent hideout in the southern Pattani province in early February, stoking formidable reprisals from the militant groups. More than 30 people were killed in various atttacks in the region since then.
In another attack on Monday, two rubber farmers, Hamdee Tolupoh and Unu Talae, were killed in a roadside shooting in nearby Yala province. This incident took place while they were transporting logs from Ban Mai to Yala town. The police said that the shooters used military-style weapons.
Thamrong Kirativirotekul, a shop-owner, said that he had noticed a suspicious person parking his motorcycle and leaving with someone else on another bike. He had immediately informed the police about this. "The bomb exploded a minute later", he added.
Doubts about the expected discussion
According to BenarNews, one of the most significant points in the discussion will be about the violence linked to the conflict in the Deep South which is predominantly a Muslim and Malay-speaking region. This violence has claimed more than 6,500 lives since the decades-long insurgency flared up in 2004.
Monday's violence muddled the prospects of the Malayasia-brokered peace talks which are expected to happen later this week. Thailand's ruling junta, which seized power in May 2014, has been continuously trying to persuade various rebel groups to reopen formal peace talks for the first time since December 2014.
In an interview with BenarNews, Srisompob Jitpiromsri, director of regional think-tank Deep South Watch expressed pessimism regarding the upcoming discussion which might be followed by the removal of a key negotiator from the Thai delegation.
Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha said Army Lt. Gen. Nakrob Boonbuathong, who was involved in the negotiations since 2013, was last week removed from the team as part of a routine reassignment of duties.
Srisompob told BenarNews: "Nakrob was the man who clinched the terms of reference (ToR) that were agreed upon and accepted by both sides. Now he is not there and we don't know whether any ToR contents were changed at all."
He also referred to an umbrella body which represents the southern rebel groups at the negotiations table and said, "And if there were some changes, we don't know if MARA Patani can accept that."