PATTANI — Security officers on Tuesday said they are investigating gun attacks that killed four people on Sunday in Pattani, where a major armed militant group previously pledged a halt on its secessionist campaigns.
The two shootouts, which took place less than an hour apart on Sunday evening, killed two paramilitary rangers at a COVID-19 checkpoint in Saiburi district and two people on a motorcycle in Rueso district. The violence came after a relatively peaceful month in April, where only a few insurgency-related attacks have been reported.
The National Revolution Front, or BRN, had previously announced an unilateral “cessation of all operations” on April 3 to facilitate the work of health officials in containing local outbreak of coronavirus.
Col. Kiattisak Neewong, a regional spokesman for the Internal Security Operations Command (ISOC), said no group has claimed responsibility for the attacks and authorities are seeking for the perpetrators.
“We are unable to name which group is responsible for the attacks. We have to wait for the investigation,” Kiattisak said.
Prior to the attack, intelligence reports warned that health officials are likely to be under threat for a possible retaliation, after security forces raided a house in a house in Nong Chik district on Thursday.
During the raid, three men described by officials as “operational leaders” were killed in a gunfight with security officers, according to official reports.
In a statement issued on Friday, the BRN condemned the raid by Thai officials, saying that the Thai state failed to respect the hardship faced by Pattani people during the epidemic.
“The declaration of cessation of all activities by BRN […] will remain in place as long as BRN is not attacked by [Thai] personnel,” the statement wrote.
The statement continued, “BRN categorically denies any claims by the [Thai government] that we violated our ongoing humanitarian pause or that the house was being used in an attack. Such claims are specious and without any basis.”
But the ISOC spokesman said the raid was an act of law enforcement, which has to be carried out regardless of the outbreak situation.
“We have to act since we have been informed about the suspects,” Col. Kiattisak said. “We can’t stop, otherwise we can be accused of negligence. I ask you, if one of your relatives has been harmed, you ask for help and officials said they are not operational since there’s a COVID-19 outbreak. Does that make sense to you?”
According to the independently-run Deep South Watch, at least 7,000 people were killed since the separatist violence broke out in 2004.