PATTANI — A Buddhist monk and a soldier were killed in a bomb attack in Thailand's southern border province of Pattani yesterday morning.
The homemade explosive was planted beneath a tree on the side of a road in Saiburi district, and manually detonated when two monks and three soldiers passed by at around 6:30 am on 25 July, police said.
The blast killed one monk and one soldier, and injured the three others. The deceased, Phrai Ekpol Sri-osot, 39, and Corporal Wanmai Rakhano, 28, were pronounced dead at Pattani Hospital.
According to police, the soldiers were escorting the two monks during their daily alms collection. The attack reportedly took place while the group was walking back to board their pick-up truck.
Police believe the bomb, which consisted of a 10 kg gas canister, was planted by Muslim separatists who stage near-daily attacks in the region in an attempt to secede Pattani and the neighboring provinces of Narathiwat and Yala from Thailand.
The Muslim-majority region, known as the Deep South, was once an independent Islamic nation called Patani. It was annexed by Thailand, then-known as Siam, in the early 20th century.
Yesterday's bomb attack was condemned by Pattani's regional chapter of the Sangha Council, Thailand's state-sponsored Buddhist authority. In a statement released to the press, the Sangha called the attack "a cruel and inhumane act against Buddhist monks."
The statement also urged Thai authorities to find and prosecute the perpetrators and provide adequate security to monks in the region.
Suwapan Tanyuwattana, the Minister of the Prime Minister's Office who also oversees the National Office of Buddhism, said officials are giving assistance to the monk and soldiers who were wounded in the bomb attack.
"The people who committed this act have evil hearts. They cannot differentiate right from wrong," Suwapan said. "They are inciting hatred among the people in order to accomplish their violent methods, and to obstruct a peaceful co-existence among the people."
Suwapan said local religious leaders should play in active role in curbing insurgent violence, which has killed more than 6,000 people, mostly civilians, since 2004.
Col. Banpot Poonpian, a spokesperson of the counter-insurgency agency the Internal Security Operation Command (ISOC), blamed the attack on "people without religion," a euphemism regularly used by Thai authorities to describe Muslim insurgents in the Deep South.
"This act is likely committed by the extremists, who are minority people and are being increasingly isolated by a peace effort in the present day," Col. Banpot told reporters yesterday. "They want to sow discord and suspicions among different religions by using terrorism, which is the method of people without religion."
The colonel also asked the media not to publish photos of the victims at the crime scene, which he said could be considered free publicity for the insurgents.
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