A fury of bomb attacks in the southern region greet Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and his Malaysian counterpart, Najib Razak, who jointly opened and renamed a bridge in Narathiwat.
The two leaders arrived by a helicopter in Waeng district to commemorate the Thai-Malay Friendship Bridge over the Kolok River, a natural boundary that cuts through a Malay-speaking region where many people on both sides are relatives. The visit was billed as a model of how the two neighbouring countries, in spite of security challenge along their common border, can cooperate.
The trip was part of Najib’s three-day official visit to the country, his first as Malaysia’s prime minister. Thousands of security forces and bomb squads were dispatched to provide security for the delegations but militants on the ground took, as well as other disturbances, greeted the visit with bomb attacks in other parts of this violence-wracked region.
In the latest violence, four bombs went off in Yala’s provincial town Wednesday morning. One of them was a twin bomb blast that killed a forensic police officer and three security officials wounded in twin bomb blasts by a riverbank in Yala’s provincial town on Wednesday morning.
Earlier Wednesday, two Thai marines were wounded in a bomb and gun attack in Narathiwat as they tried to collect banners criticising Abhisit’s policies on the south. One series of banner, posted through out the three provinces in both Jawi and Rumi, reads “Patani Sebahagian daripada Malaysia”, which translated as “Patani is part of Malaysia”. “It could be anybody with an intention to irritate the delegations,” said Senator Worawit Baru, when asked who he think were behind such statement.
Worawit pointed out that the militants on the ground often spray paint the word “Patani Merdeka”, which mean “Free Patani” on the roads and streets. Another roadside bomb wounded two troops and a policeman assigned to a security details for teachers in Yala. On Tuesday a bomb killed a soldier and wounded another in a Narathiwat road where Abhisit and Najib were scheduled to pass through.
The second soldier died in the hospital. On Monday, two people were killed by a powerful motorcycle bomb in Narathiwat provincial town while two other civilians were shot dead earlier this week.
The two-lane bridge that was renamed yesterday open in December 2007 by Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and Surayud Chulanont, the then-prime ministers of Malaysia and Thailand, in a bid to boost the border region’s economy. Badawi did not visit any other parts of southern Thailand at the time.
Future plans include linking the economy of the southernmost provinces to Malaysia’s northern states. The two leaders were later Wednesday due to visit one public school and one Islamic school, a handicraft village and a “widow village” that shelters some 140 families affected by the unrest.