Nighttime attacks on convenience stores and gas stations in southern Thailand

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A wave of arson and bombings have hit Thailand’s southernmost provinces, which for nearly two decades have been the scene of an active Muslim separatist insurgency.

At least 17 attacks took place Tuesday night in Thailand’s Pattani, Narathiwat and Yala provinces, mostly at convenience stores and gas stations, military spokesman Pramote Promin said.

Three civilians were reportedly injured. There have been no claims of liability yet.

More than 7,300 people have been killed since the insurgency began in 2004 in the three provinces, the only Muslim-majority provinces in Buddhist-dominated Thailand.

Attacks also took place in the neighboring province of Songkhla.

Muslim residents have long accused of being treated like second-class citizens in Thailand, and separatist movements have been periodically active for decades. Strong repressions fueled discontent.

The attacks are the most publicized since early April, when the Thai government and Barisan Revolusi Nasional Melayu Patani (BRN) – considered the largest of several insurgent groups – agreed to end violence during the Muslim holy period of Ramadan.

The attacks took place in the Thai provinces of Pattani, Narathiwat and Yala.(Reuters: Surapan Boonthanom)

In further violence since then, two Thai army ammunition experts on duty were killed by a bomb later that month.

Mr Pramote said the assailants on Tuesday night “disguised themselves as women, used motorbikes and in many cases used petrol bombs, launching them into the target sites”.

“It is clear that the insurgents remain intent on using violence against people, damaging confidence in the economy, creating uncertainty and undermining the system of government,” he said.

Police Captain Sarayuth Kotchawong said he received a report shortly before midnight that a suspect entered a convenience store at a Yaha district gas station in Yala, placed a black bag inside and had warned employees to leave if they “didn’t want to die”.

The workers left before the bag exploded 10 minutes later.

To date, the various insurgent groups in the south have not issued a consensual demand.

They are a shadowy mix of veteran separatists, often loosely led violent youth groups of militants.

Their goals range from greater autonomy to independence, with little indication that they are linked to jihadist movements in other Southeast Asian countries, such as Indonesia and the Philippines.

Peace talks have been underway for several years under the auspices of the Malaysian government between Thai officials and Mara Patani, an umbrella body representing several insurgent groups.

PA

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