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09BANGKOK2149 SOUTHERN VIOLENCE: MIDDAY BOMB ATTACK IN NARATHIWAT AUGUST 25 MEANT TO SEND A SIGNAL

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“222332”,”8/26/2009 10:08″,”09BANGKOK2149″,

“Embassy Bangkok”,”SECRET”,

“09BANGKOK1508|09BANGKOK2096″,”VZCZCXRO1313

PP RUEHCHI RUEHCN RUEHDT RUEHHM

DE RUEHBK #2149/01 2381008

ZNY SSSSS ZZH

P 261008Z AUG 09

FM AMEMBASSY BANGKOK

TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 8068

INFO RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY

RUEKDIA/DIA WASHDC PRIORITY

RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY

RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY

RHHMUNA/CDR USPACOM HONOLULU HI PRIORITY

RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS

RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 7387

RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA 9902

RUEHUL/AMEMBASSY SEOUL 5719

RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO 1850

RUEHWL/AMEMBASSY WELLINGTON 0063”,

“S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 03 BANGKOK 002149

SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/MLS; NSC FOR WALTON

E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/26/2019

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

SUBJECT: SOUTHERN VIOLENCE: MIDDAY BOMB ATTACK IN

NARATHIWAT AUGUST 25 MEANT TO SEND A SIGNAL

REF: A. BANGKOK 1508 (JUNE 8 MOSQUE ATTACK AND REPRISALS)

B. BANGKOK 2096 (THE HDC DIALOGUE RESUMES)

Classified By: DCM James F. Entwistle, reason 1.4 (b,d)

1. (S) Summary: A car bomb exploded August 25 in front of a

restaurant in the deep southern province of Narathiwat,

injuring over 40 people; no one was killed, however. The

incident bears many of the hallmarks of an insurgent style

attack, though mid-day bombings are still rare for an

insurgency that typically carries out targeted killings in

the early morning or early evening hours. While the overall

level of violence in Thailand\’s deep south is lower in 2009

than 2008 and the peak year of 2007, Narathiwat province in

particuar has seen a surge in incidents since the June 8

massacre at a mosque left 10 dead and 12 injured. A

perceived connection between that attack and a village

defense project sponsored by Queen Sirikit led to many

banners being posted in the deep south on her birthday,

August 12, blaming her project for violence in the south,

among other issues; this development has not been reported in

the Thai media. End Summary.

2. (C) Comment: Insurgents did confirm to a close embassy

contact late August 25 that they had carried out the attack,

intended as a signal for Buddhists to leave the deep south.

With local elections scheduled for September 6 and a string

of election-related acts of violence occurring in recent

weeks, however, not all deep south violence is automatically

insurgency related. The posting of the anti-Queen banners on

her birthday, a national holiday, was both unusual and

significant, but the fact that the banners were

professionally printed on vinyl, written in perfect central

Thai rather than the local Malay dialect, and touched on

issues which don\’t resonate in the south suggests those

behind it were not local but national actors. Most in the

know blame the red-shirts seeking to take advantage of

inaction in the mosque attack case to undermine the Queen in

particular and the monarchy in general. End Comment.

Lunchtime Bomb

————–

3. (SBU) The Narathiwat Provincial Defense Office reported

that at 12:30 p.m. on August 25, a bomb exploded inside of a

pickup truck parked in front of a busy restaurant in

Narathiwat town. The explosion — which damaged vehicles and

buildings in the immediate vicinity — did not kill anyone,

but injured 42 people, 17 of whom where subsequently

hospitalized. The Provincial Defense Office and Provincial

Police told us that the district chief, deputy district

chief, provincial election commission officials and associate

judges, and defense volunteers all were present at the time

of the bombing. The bomb was apparently placed in a

household liquefied petroleum gas tank and weighed

approximately 50 kilograms, according to a local journalist

and other sources, making it one of the largest bombs to be

deployed in the southern violence, which has claimed over

3000 lives since entering a more violent phase in January

2004. The provincial police reported that the truck used in

the attack belonged to a district land official from Pattani

who was killed August 5.

Multiple Choices for Motive: Bash the Buddhists…

——————————————— —–

4. (SBU) Press and local officials were quick to attribute

the attack to the separatist insurgent movement.

Conventional wisdom in the South holds that attacks occur

more frequently during Ramadan, which commenced August 21.

The presence of a number of government officials eating a

mid-day meal, all Thai Buddhists, also suggests this

explosion was a statement by insurgents. Phongsak

Chutichaowakun, chairman of the Narathiwat Industry Council

and Chamber of Commerce, as well as the head of the local

chapter of the Village Defense Force project sponsored by

Queen Sirikit, claimed to us later August 25 that the attack

was intended to intimidate Thai Buddhists. Narathiwat\’s

Buddhists have been frequent targets of insurgents\’ violence;

BANGKOK 00002149 002 OF 003

of the 119 school teachers killed in the deep south since

2004, 52 died in Narathiwat — 50 were Buddhist, and the two

Muslims were killed trying to protect Buddhist colleagues.

5. (C) Phongsak noted that all of the customers at the

restaurant were Buddhists, as is the owner. Phongsak

interpreted the attack as a message from the Muslim

insurgents that Buddhist restaurants should not be open

during the day during Ramadan in a Muslim stronghold. During

an August 18 meeting with us, Phongsak and fellow members of

the Narathiwat Industry Council and Chamber of Commerce had

expressed feelings of frustration, intimidation, and

marginalization by Malay-Muslims and characterized the

ongoing conflict as a religious issue. They also spoke in

derogatory terms about the Muslim religion and their Malay

Muslim neighbors, a clear sign of raw nerves in Narthiwat.

6. (C) XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

and regular Embassy contact with good connections in

both security forces and the insurgent movement, told us

August 26 that he spoke with the insurgents by phone late on

August 25. Despite the lack of deaths, the insurgents

claimed that the bomb was intended to inflict mass casualties

and send a message to the Buddhists to get out of Narathiwat,

and that they had chosen the time and location to inflict

maximum possible damage. When XXXXXX pressed the insurgents

about attempting to kill during Ramadan, he said they told

him that since the people in the restaurant were all \”kaffir\”

(infidels), it did not matter.

…or Revenge for no justice in Mosque shooting….

——————————————— ——

7. (SBU) Another potential motive for this attack could be

the perceived lack of progress in the investigation of the

June 8 shooting at al-Furquan mosque (ref A). Police

officials in Yala, Yala Vice-Governor Gritsada Bunrat, and

Narathiwat Vice-Governor Natthaphong Sirichana told us August

18-19 that while only one arrest warrant had been issued to

date, three more should be issued the week of August 24.

Haji Abdullozak Ali, chairman of the Narathiwat Islamic

Committee, told us August 18 that Narathiwat Muslims remained

angry about the June 8 mosque attack and knew Buddhists were

to blame: \”Shia and Sunni may kill each other in Iraq, but it

doesn\’t happen here.\” Abdullozak Ali said he had appealed

for calm among the Malay-Muslim community, asked them to

allow officials sufficient time to conduct their

investigations, and not to hold public protests in the

interim. He said the people want to know the facts about the

case and expected an equal application of the law and justice.

The alleged connection to the Queen leads to birthday banners

——————————————— —————-

8. (S) Part of the delay in arresting those known to be

involved in the June 8 shooting is the perceived connection

of the participants to the Village Defense Force project

sponsored by Queen Sirikit and administered by Royal

aide-de-camp GEN Naphol (ref A). XXXXX told us that on the

Queen\’s Birthday, August 12, that his contacts reported

seeing banners in every district of Pattani, written in

mistake-free central Thai, blaming her for problems in the

south — specifically her sponsorship of the Village Defense

Force project — as well as her involvement in politics and

her alleged ownership of an infamous large blue diamond

stolen by a Thai housekeeper in Saudi Arabia in 1989. The

latter issues are commonly raised by red-shirts and

anti-monarchists in the north and northeast of Thailand, but

are not on the southern agenda. XXXXX noted in addition that

pamphlets and banners written in Thai by the Malay Muslim

insurgents are usually homemade and invariably strewn with

poor spelling.

9. (C) We had heard about the anti-Queen banners from a

separate NGO source during our August 16-19 visit to the

southern provinces (septel). Yala Vice-Governor Gritsada

appeared surprised when we mentioned these banners to him on

August 19, but he confirmed that the banners were written in

perfect central Thai and mentioned issues that do not

BANGKOK 00002149 003 OF 003

resonate down south, like the blue diamond. Gritsada said

Pranai Suwannarat, the director of the Southern Border

Provinces Administrative Center (SBPAC) had agreed these

banners were the likely work of the UDD, not the insurgents.

XXXXX told us that the widespread presence of the banners

indicates the strong organization and funding available to

the UDD in Pattani province.

10. (S) There is widespread awareness among officials that

the perceived connection between the June 8 mosque attack and

the royally sponsored Village Defense project must be

addressed, but typical Thai hesitancy to address a sensitive

issue connected to the Royal family head-on has prevented

more decisive action. FM Kasit, who has taken a personal

interest in addressing the southern violence and has led

several large delegations of Ambassadors from EU and OIC

countries to the south, told XXXXX late August 25 that

he planned to report to the Queen the harm caused by GEN

Naphol\’s militia, both in terms of fostering renewed violence

and in acting as an obstacle to the still-secret efforts at

dialogue (ref B).

JOHN

Written by thaicables

June 23, 2011 at 2:46 am

Posted in Secret, South Thailand

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