“We want safety, not compensation”, say Kok Krabue villagers
“I want to tell (the authorities) that money is not the biggest problem for us here. We just want safety because, nowadays, there is no safety at all wherever it is. Previously, violent incidents took place outside our village so we did not blame anybody in particular because we thought anyone who ventured out of the village would have to take the risk themselves as no authorities could provide the protection all the time. But today violent incident took place right in our village despite the fact that there were troops around us,” said Mr Thud Sookprasert, a villager of Tambon Kok Krabue.
He said that the February 3 terror had caused widespread resentment among the villagers and they demanded better security for their lives and properties.
The latest terror attack occurred at about 6 a.m. as several villagers were heading for a temple for merit making. Since it was still early in the morning, some of the villagers had breakfast at a food shop in front of the temple.
According to eyewitness accounts, a white pick-up truck with five men in green fatigues, wielding automatic weapons, on board, passed through the temple. Then the gunmen, believed to insurgents, opened fire indiscriminately at a group of villagers in front of the temple before they targeted those sitting in the food shop. Five villagers were killed and four others were injured.
All the dead victims were key members of the village. They were Mrs Pikul Saennoo, 40, a health volunteer of the village; Mrs Laddawan Yodkaew, 60, a retired teacher; Pongsak Petch, 44, an educational official of Zone 1 of Pattani; Nim Boonmak, 78, and Niphon Sermklin, 62, an assistant village head.
Mr Thud said he wondered how the insurgents could mount such a daring attack and escaped scot free despite the fact that there were many troops around the village. There are two outposts of the paramailitary rangers – one about a kilometer from the village and another about two kilometers away - and about a kilometer away there is an outpost of the regular troops.
The villager believes the insurgents planned the attack well in advance and had a clearcut target, that was the Thai Buddhists, said Mr Thud.
Although February 3 attack was the worst against Tambok Kok Krabue, the village had experienced several attacks before in which four couples were killed and over ten others injured.
Mr Thud went on saying that the Thai Buddhists in the village had been living peacefully with their Muslim counterparts. He cited a case some time ago when unknown gunmen opened fire into a tea shop owned by a Muslim villager. However, he said the incident did not cause any misunderstanding or mutual mistrust between the villagers of different religious faiths.
Mr Silpa Tanthapong, president of Kok Krabue tambon administration organization, called on the authorities to step up security for the villagers in Tambon Kok Krabue, saying that many of them have been living in fear ever since the latest attack.
Former senator Mr Anusart Suwanmongkok believed the the insurgents deliberately targeted the Thai Buddhist villagers because they were “soft targets” with an intention to fan mutual mistrust between the Buddhists and the Muslims and also to force out the Buddhists from the region.
Besides the five Buddhist victims killed on February 3, 13 others were killed in Yaha district of Yala. Nine Thai Buddhist hunters were killed by a roadside bomb explosion as they were riding in a pick-up truck on January 25. A few days afterward, a family of four were found shot to death in a bush not far away from the railway track. Troops escorting Buddhist monks to receive alms came under two attacks, one in Pattani and another in Yala.
Malay Muslims were also killed by unknown assailants in the restive region. On February 4, Mr Mahama Taseh was shot dead while he was riding a motorcycle in Raman district of Yala. Two days afterward on February 6, Mr Ma-useng Samoh, 64, was shot dead by assailants as he was standing in front of his house in Panareh district of Pattani.