BANGKOK — More than a dozen grenade and bomb attacks in southern Thailand killed two suspected insurgents whose explosives detonated unexpectedly, officials said Thursday.
Eight other civilians and officials were wounded in the Wednesday night violence, said Pramote Prom-in, a spokesman for Thailand’s Internal Security Operations Command. He identified the dead as “insurgent operation leaders.”
No group has claimed responsibility for the 13 attacks, which targeted police stations and checkpoints in 12 separate districts in Muslim-majority provinces in Thailand’s deep south.
Southern Thailand has been in the grip of a separatist insurgency in this predominantly Buddhist country for years. About 7,000 people have been killed since the conflict flared in 2004. The insurgents regularly carry out bombings and drive-by shootings of civilians and officials.
The attacks were the first major assault since a key rebel group, the BRN – Barisan Revolusi Nasional (National Revolutionary Front) – issued a rare public statement on April 10 appearing to reject talks the Thai government has been holding with them as part of a coalition of insurgent groups known as MARA Patani. The BRN is assumed to be the most militant of the groups, while others have smaller followings.
The statement called for new talks mediated by impartial third parties. Some of the insurgents’ representatives involved in the current talks live in neighboring Malaysia, which hosts the negotiations, and are susceptible to pressure from the government there. The statement also implied that the new talks should not include some current insurgents considered not representative of active groups.
The Thai government has rejected the proposal.
It was the second major set of coordinated attacks in two weeks. On April 7, suspected insurgents set off dozens of bombs in southern Thailand, bringing down power lines and setting tires on fire to block roads, but causing no deaths or injuries.
The spike in violence at the beginning of this month was in response to the March 29 extrajudicial killings of two suspected insurgents, said Don Pathan, a security analyst who lives in the region.
“The militants were hitting both soft and hard targets. But in the incident on Wednesday evening, the combatants wanted to show that they can also go after military and police targets as well. It’s their way of reminding the authorities of their capabilities,” he said.
Pathan said the attacks were aimed at forcing the government to accept the insurgents’ conditions for talks.