Insurgents target senior officials
Deputy Prime Minister in charge of security affairs Chalerm Yubamrung was told by Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra to immediately visit the restive deep South following Friday April 5’s roadside bomb attack in Yala’s Bannang Sata district which killed the deputy governor and his assistant.
Mr Chalerm is yet to visit the region for the first time since he was put in charge of overseeing the unrest in the three southernmost provinces several months ago. He has kept postponing the visit for several times citing various reasons such as to oversee the Pheu Thai party’s Bangkok governor’s election campaign and to take care of the constitutional amendments debate in the parliament.
Yala deputy governor Issara Thongthawat was the highest-ranking government official killed by suspected insurgents in many years. Also killed in the same bomb blast was Mr Chaowalit Chairuek, the assistant governor. The two victims were on their way to perform their duty in Betong district.
Other middle-ranking officials killed in the past nine years of insurgency war were as follows: November 23, 2004, Pattani deputy governor Sunthorn Rithpakdee was fatally shot as he was on an inspection tour in Yaring district. He eventually succumbed to death on December 7; June 19, 2007, Pattani’s Mai Kaen district chief officer Chauapat Raksayos was killed in a roadside bomb blast as he was returning home was killed in an ambush in Tambon Khern Bang Lang in Bannang Sata district; September 29, 2007, Captain Thoranit Srisook or Captain Kaen was shot dead in an ambush in Bannang Sata district and Colonel Sutthisak Prasertsri, commander of a special task force, was killed in a roadside bomb blast and ambush in Bannang Sata district on August 26, 2006.
Police investigators found a note believed written by the assailants at the scene of April 5 bomb attack which killed the Yala deputy governor and his assistant. The note which reads “Why come so late?” was meant to mock the security forces.
Some officials said the bomb attack was a retaliation against the arrest of Abdulloh Pula, a core leader of the separatists in Tarnto-Bannang Sata area, a week ago.
Yala governor Detrath Limsiri said that he was supposed to make the visit to Betong district to preside over the opening of a ceremony, but he was engaged in the other business and had to assign Mr Issara to go on his behalf. He added that he felt very sorry for his deputy’s death.
Informed sources said that the deputy governor went to another official function in Muang district in an armoured car. But he switched to his Toyota Camry to travel to Betong because the district is quite a long distance away and the road is winding and tricky.
Democrat deputy leader Thavorn Senniam urged the government to provide more armour-plated cars for senior officials in the far South for their safety. He also called on the government to put more pressure on the Barisan Revolusi Nasional representatives to convince the separatists to scale down their violence in the region.