Thai tourist attacks probe points to Muslim south: police

Update: August, 22/2016 - 16:16
A labourer inspects the damage done to the glass windows of a Starbucks branch next to the site of a bomb attack earlier in the day in the upscale resort town of Hua Hin on August 12. — AFP/VNA Photo
Viet Nam News

BANGKOK Most of those behind a string of bombings in Thai tourist towns are Muslims from the kingdom’s insurgency-plagued southern provinces, the country’s police chief said today.

It was the first clear indication that police believe a group of southern Muslims played some sort of role in the attacks which killed four and wounded dozens, including European visitors, this month.

Police chief Chakthip Chaijinda told reporters that investigators believe a group of "more than 20 people" were behind the co-ordinated attacks.

"Most of them are from the area of the southern border provinces police operation centre," he said, referencing a policing area that encompasses the Muslim-majority southernmost region.

Asked whether the suspects were Thai nationals he replied: "They are not Buddhists."

He added that investigators had recently searched an Islamic school where he believed some of the suspects had studied or graduated from.

More than 6,500 people, mostly civilians, have been killed in 12 years of violence between the Buddhist-majority state and shadowy ethnic Malay Muslim rebels seeking greater autonomy.

But the violence has largely remained local and foreign visitors are also largely insulated from domestic political clashes that have hit the capital.

That changed on 11-12 August when a string of co-ordinated bomb and arson attacks struck multiple tourist resort towns in Thailand’s south.

No one has claimed responsibility but authorities quickly ruled out international terrorism, saying the perpetrators were domestic.

One arrest warrant has so far been issued for a named suspect over the attacks, a Muslim man from the southern province of Narathiwat.

Local media have reported that the man, Ahama Lengha, has a history of involvement with insurgents.

At his briefing police chief Chakthip said he was not ruling out any motive, adding that the group "might have been hired" by others to carry out the attacks.

He said he believed the perpetrators were previously unknown to police, not veterans from within the Malay insurgency who might be easier to catch and identify.

"They are almost all new blood which makes the investigation harder, but we do have evidence," he said. AFP