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09BANGKOK1388 SOUTHERN VIOLENCE: TWELVE KILLED IN MOSQUE ATTACK

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“210948”,”6/9/2009 10:34″,”09BANGKOK1388″,

 

“Embassy Bangkok”,”CONFIDENTIAL”,

 

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E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/09/2019

TAGS: PGOV, PHUM, PINR, PREL, PTER, TH

SUBJECT: SOUTHERN VIOLENCE: TWELVE KILLED IN MOSQUE ATTACK

 

REF: A. BANGKOK 01320

B. 07 BANGKOK 05991

 

Classified By: Charge d\’Affaires, a.i. James F. Entwistle, reasons 1.4

(b) and (d)

 

1. (C) Summary: In one of the most lethal recent acts of

violence, gunmen on June 8 entered a mosque during evening

prayers in Cho Airong District of Narathiwat province

(bordering Malaysia) and killed 12 people. The killings

follow a surge in violence that appears to have resulted from

the May 29 Court announcement of its findings in an inquest

into the 2004 crackdown on a demonstration in Tak Bai

district (also in Narathiwat) that left over 70 people dead;

the Court\’s decision seemed to favor security officials.

Thai government officials told us they suspect the attackers

were Malay Muslim insurgents; NGOs and others believe that

they were militant Buddhists seeking revenge for recent

attacks that targeted teachers and others in the South. Army

Commander Anupong Paochinda quickly traveled to the South for

consultations; Deputy Prime Minister Suthep intends to travel

there in the coming days. The attack came as PM Abhisit was

in Malaysia discussing southern Thailand with PM Najib.

 

2. (C) Comment: We do not entirely rule out the RTG\’s claim

that unidentified Malay Muslim insurgents committed the

attack; it is possible that insurgents sought to perpetuate a

cycle of violence and derail any prospects for peace.

Nevertheless, it is difficult to imagine insurgents carrying

out such a brutal attack on people who would appear to be

their constituents; barring evidence to the contrary, we

believe that militant Buddhists represent the more likely

suspects. Whomever the culprits may be, the attack appears

certain to aggravate ethnic tensions and further set back the

prospects for peace. End Summary and Comment.

 

MOSQUE MASSACRE IN DANGEROUS DISTRICT

————————————-

 

3. (U) A group of unidentified gunmen opened fire in a mosque

during evening prayers in Cho Airong district in Narathiwat

province June 8, the same day Prime Minister Abhisit was in

Malaysia discussing southern Thailand with PM Najib. The

attack left 12 people dead and 10 injured. Narathiwat police

and military officials told us that there were five to six

attackers. According to the officials, the attackers were

insurgents. Colonel Parinya Chaidilok, spokesperson for the

Fourth Region Internal Security Operations Command, was

quoted by the daily newspaper Bangkok Post as denying that

the perpetrators were affiliated with the government, but

that by attacking a mosque the killers appeared to be trying

to pin the blame on Thai security forces.

 

4. (C) Cho Airong is among the most violent districts in

southern Thailand. We visited a small village in the

district in 2007 (ref B) and noted a sense of high tension.

The Buddhist villagers we met were heavily armed and had

constructed bunkers alongside their homes to defend their

enclave against possible attacks by Malay-Muslim insurgents.

Several of the 20 or so people we met had lost limbs to the

ongoing violence. General Naphon Boontub, Aide-de-Camp to

Queen Sirikit and host for the trip, told us then that

Buddhists in the area were making a last stand against

insurgents in rural Narathiwat.

 

RECENT SURGE IN VIOLENCE

————————

 

5. (SBU) The mosque attack follows several recent large-scale

attacks in Narathiwat. Three people were killed and 26 were

injured on June 7 in attacks in Narathiwat. AFP reported on

June 9 that 29 people had been killed and 68 injured in

attacks in southern Thailand during the last week. Among the

dead are four teachers, one of whom was pregnant. The

violence follows a May 29 reading of a Court\’s inquest into

the deaths of 78 people following the break-up of a

demonstration in Tak Bai district of Narathiwat in 2004 (ref

A). The inquest appeared to be partial to security officials

by including language that those who died \”had been in the

 

BANGKOK 00001388 002 OF 003

 

custody of officials who had performed their duties according

to assigned responsibilities.\” Commentators predicted

publicly that, despite the Court\’s seeming independence from

central authorities, the ruling would cast doubt on the

sincerity of the Thai government\’s efforts to bring peace and

justice to the South. (Note: Widespread media reporting,

which we cited in ref A, erroneously claimed that the Court\’s

ruling cited provisions of Thailand\’s Emergency Decree; in

fact, the ruling did not mention the Decree. End Note.)

 

6. (SBU) Another possible factor in the uptick in violence is

the Thai government\’s success in late May in lobbying the

Organization of the Islamic Conference to postpone a

resolution on the situation in southern Thailand. Insurgents

groups such as the Pattani United Liberation Organization

have pushed for such a resolution which, if passed, would

likely embarrass the Thai government by stating that a

greater level of self-governance was needed in the South.

 

UNCERTAINTY OVER THE REASON BEHIND THE ATTACK

———————————————

 

7. (C) Narathiwat Vice Governor Nipon Narapitakkul told us

that he doubted that the recent attacks were related to the

Tak Bai ruling. Rather, he believed that the attacks were

part of ongoing insurgent activities and that the mosque had

been targeted because officials were unable to enforce

security in Cho Airong.

 

8. (C) Yala Vice Governor Grisada Boonrach told us that while

there have been previous attacks on mosques in the three

southern provinces, this was the first time that gunmen had

opened fire directly on Muslim worshippers in prayer.

Grisada predicted that the severity of the mosque attack

would significantly impact the morale of southern Muslims.

Grisada characterized the attack as the worst incident since

insurgent violence began to increase significantly in 2004.

 

REVENGE FOR RECENT KILLINGS?

—————————-

 

9. (C) Somchai Homlaor, a lawyer and Secretary-General of the

Human Rights and Development Foundation, told us on June 9

his contacts in the South suggested that the attack had

likely been conducted by an unspecified militant Buddhist

group, possibly with support from paramilitaries or village

defense volunteers, as payback for the recent suspected

insurgent attacks. Somchai said the mosque killing may be a

tipping point in the insurgency. The military could not

control the security situation and had lost the confidence of

local people in the South, Somchai said.

 

10. (C) The local office of the XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

XXXXXX told us that XXXXXXX’s southern contacts reported a

wide range of rumors regarding the mosque attack. Many in

the South believed that killings were the responsibility of a

militant Buddhist organization seeking revenge for the recent

uptick in violence. XXXXXXX contact told us she and her

sources were worried about the impact of the mosque killings,

and characterized the incident as indiscriminate violence.

 

THAI GOVERNMENT WORRIED

———————–

 

11. (U) Thai Army Commander General Anupong Paochinda made an

unplanned visit to the South on June 9 to discuss security

with Fourth Army Commander Lt Gen Pichet Wisaijorn. The

Bangkok Post that reported that Deputy Prime Minister Suthep

Thaugsuban also planned to visit on June 13. The visit would

be his second to the South in a little over two weeks.

 

12. (C) Colonel Werachon Sukondhapatipak, Director of the

Royal Thai Army\’s (RTA) Foreign Liaison Division,

characterized the attack as an act of terrorism; the

indiscriminate nature of the killings broke from the previous

pattern of targeted violence. The RTA suspected that

insurgents conducted the attack in order to attract

international attention. Werachon said Prime Minister

Abhisit\’s June 8 visit to Malaysia had been successful in

 

BANGKOK 00001388 003 OF 003

 

demonstrating cooperation between the two sides and may have

prompted insurgents who opposed peaceful settlement of the

conflict to resort to this escalation in order to

demonstration their opposition. Werachon also described the

recent OIC decision to postpone action on a resolution on the

South as a victory for the RTG that may have prompted the

recent violence. Werachon disputed that the attack was an

act of revenge, saying that the RTA did not believe the

attack was religious in nature.

ENTWISTLE

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Written by thaicables

June 23, 2011 at 2:42 am

One Response

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  1. […] For example, when a group of mean killed 10 people at a mosque in June 2009 – see this US embassy cable for some background – Abhsit’s government championed the arrest warrant of a former […]


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