At least four people were killed and 49 injured when a series of coordinated explosions, arson attacks and shootings hit Thailand’s restive Muslim-majority south, police said.
Fifteen explosions injured 26 people and killed one in Yala province, one of three insurgency-torn southern provinces bordering Malaysia, while in nearby Narathiwat province, one person was killed and 23 injured in seven bombings.
An unknown number of arson attacks and blasts hit Pattani province, one of which temporarily cut the provincial capital’s electricity. Two villagers in Pattani were also shot dead in an ambush Sunday night.
More than 1,900 people have been killed in Thailand’s Muslim-majority south since the latest separatist insurgency erupted in January 2004. Sunday’s attacks hit as Thailand was celebrating the Lunar New Year.
“There are efforts to create chaos and make the news worldwide,” said national army spokesman Colonel Acar Tiproch.
“They use the festival time to show that there is not peace in the three provinces in the south,” he told national television, adding that the army now had control of the situation.
The bombings across the three troubled provinces began at about 7.00 pm (1200 GMT).
In Yala Town, police said nine blasts hit karaoke bars, petrol stations, hotels, a golf course and a cinema, while in a remote area of the province one person was killed in one of six blasts.
Pattani’s governor Panu Uthairat told Thai television that three blasts there had hit the power plant. A blackout ensued in Pattani Town, but he reassured residents that 95 percent of the supply had been restored.
In Narathiwat, seven bombings — the majority of which hit karaoke bars — started at 7.30 pm, police said, killing one.
Militants in Narathiwat also set fire to a central mosque and two schools. In Yala, a primary school was set alight.
Teachers and schools are frequently targeted because militants view them as symbols of Bangkok’s effort to impose Buddhist Thai culture on the region.
“The militants show of force is trying to challenge the power of the authorities,” Narathiwat’s Deputy Governor Nithon Naratitakkul said.
“The pattern of the attacks is orchestrated across the three provinces, and they attacked at almost exactly the same time,” he added.
Police advised people in the three southern provinces to stay at home.
Violence along Thailand’s southern border with Malaysia has surged since the military seized power in Bangkok in a bloodless coup in September, despite a raft of peace measures introduced by army-installed premier Surayud Chulanont.
In the latest gesture, Thailand said Friday that it was willing to hold talks with separatists in the south with the help of neighbouring Malaysia, reversing an earlier statement denying such plans.
The three Muslim-majority provinces were once an autonomous sultanate, until the region was annexed by Thailand a century ago. Separatist unrest has erupted periodically ever since.