BANGKOK: The Thai government strongly condemned yesterday’s bombing incident at a busy supermarket in Pattani, southern Thailand, but stated it will not abandon the current peace process with an umbrella body representing militant groups in the volatile province.
The supermarket, which was packed with customers during the incident, was hit by two bombs at about 2.30pm local time, leaving 69 people, including several children, injured.
“The government affirmed that it will go ahead with the peace process and strive to do everything it can for the return of peace in southern Thailand,” government spokesman Lt Gen Sansern Kaewkamnerd said in a statement here today.
He said the perpetrators acted “very violently and cruelly” in committing the acts.
For more than a year, Thailand has been engaging in a peace process with Mara Patani (Patani Consultative Council) with Malaysia, acting as the facilitator, to end the conflict which has claimed more than 6,000 lives.
Recently both sides agreed to establish “safety zones” in southern Thailand, although details of the agreement are still being negotiated.
Sansern also said the government would step up security measures in the south to ward off untoward incidents and asked for cooperation from the public to share information with the authorities.
In PATTANI, the province’s governor Wiranan Chanpen, in a statement, said the number of victims from yesterday’s incident had climbed to 69 from 52 previously, with eight children – a boy and seven girls – listed as among the injured.
He said others injured in the bombing were 21 men and 40 women and all the victims were shoppers and workers of the supermarket.
“One of the three critical victims is a girl and all have been admitted to Songkla Nakharin University Hospital to receive further treatment,” said Wiranan.
Last night, the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) representative in Thailand also condemned the incident.
Meanwhile, Army Fourth Region Commander Lt Gen Piyawat Nakwanich said the pickup lorry which was used in one of the bombings at the supermarket was traced to Yala-based tent trader, Nai Nuson Khajondam.
Security forces, according to him, raided Nai Nuson’s house after the bombing incident but failed to find him, and instead met the man’s wife who told them her husband left the house yesterday after receiving a call for a tent job at a mosque in Pattani.
“She said that was the last time she saw her husband and had failed to contact him since,” he said today adding that the woman told them she only knew that her husband’s pickup lorry was used in the bombing through the media.
Bernama’s visit to the supermarket located in Muang district, Pattani today found the scene was heavily guarded by security forces, with members of the forensic and Explosive, Ordnance and Disposal (EOD) teams sweeping the areas for evidence.
The supermarket, which employed 90% locals as its staff and is closed until June 1 for repair work, had been struck by violent incidents in 2005 and 2012.
No one has claimed responsibility for yesterday’s incident.