#Thailand – TAO chief and four others held over Big C bombing

Suspected murder of owner of pickup used in Pattani blasts

FIVE MEN, including a Tambon Administration Organisation (TAO) chief, have been detained for questioning over their alleged involvement in the broad daylight bomb blasts in Pattani province, Fourth Army Region Commander Lt-General Piyawat Narkwanich said yesterday.

This is the first time that a state official has been identified and detained for alleged involvement in the insurgency in the deep South. Piyawat did not name the TAO chief.

The chief of Pattani’s Nong Chik district was arrested after another suspect implicated him in the alleged murder of a pickup owner and the theft of the vehicle that was used in the attack in the province’s Muang district on Tuesday.

 Evidence found at the scene and footage from the Big C department store’s security camera led to the arrest of the suspects, Piyawat said.

The five suspects allegedly stole the pickup of Yala resident Nuson Kajornkam, which was used in the car-bomb attack at the Big C outlet.

Piyawat said there was a likelihood that Nuson had been killed as one of the five detained suspects had confessed to wiping blood from the pickup.

The body of Nuson was later found in a paddy field in Pattani’s Nong Chik district. His wife earlier said that someone had telephoned Nuson on Monday, saying he wanted to buy items from him in Pattani.

She said her husband left at around 10am on Tuesday for Pattani. Nuson’s vehicle, bearing Yala licence plate Bor Jor 3303, was later packed with explosives and parked at the Big C store where it exploded at about 2.30pm, leaving more than 80 injured, including children.

Investigators have concluded that the pickup was stolen from a mosque in Ban Mai, a village in Nongchik district’s Tambon Kohpoh in Pattani.

Witnesses told police they saw four men surrounding the pickup before the owner was killed and his body was taken away in another pickup. Despite a fresh concrete floor having been laid, bloodstains were found at the spot identified by the witnesses.

Piyawat called for understanding from the public, as tighter security would mean difficulties in commuting.

“Authorities will be checking every vehicle, including ice-cream trucks because the insurgents are trying to adjust their operations, so we have to be one better than them,” he said.

The insurgents’ attack on the Big C department store in Pattani had led to great loss of support among Thai Muslim local residents, Piyawat said. The bomb attack had most affected Thai Muslims who were shopping in the store, including children, he added. About 95 per cent of the population in the area is Thai Muslim.

“The blasts have badly affected not only the Thai Muslim community but also every group of society, particularly women and children. They are just people who went to the store to buy things before going home,” Piyawat said.

Meanwhile, national police chief Pol General Chakthip Chaijinda said police had been warned about the Big C bombing about an hour before the attack.

Source – TheNation

#Thailand – Pattani bombers targeted back-to-school shoppers.

Police forensics specialists and an Explosive Ordnance Disposal squad on Wednesday morning inspected the scene outside a Big C department store in Pattani’s Mueang district where a powerful car bomb had exploded the previous day, injuring 61 people.

Investigators believe the culprits parked a pickup truck at the store’s entrance containing two cylinders of cooking gas in its rear cab space. 

The explosion occurred at about 2.30pm on Tuesday when the store was crowded with parents and their children buying school materials for the new semester.

Source – TheNation

Thailand – Southern provinces brace for further heavy downpours and landslides today.

Southern provinces brace for further heavy downpours and landslides today.

There are fears that the expected worsening flooding could be exacerbated by landslides in at-risk areas.

The 11 provinces are Ranong, Phang Nga, Phuket, Krabi, Phetchaburi, Prachuap Khiri Khan, Chumphon, Surat Thani, Phattthalung, Nakhon Si Thammarat and Trang. In Nakhon Si Thammarat yesterday, there was a landslide at the Thung Song-Ron Phibun section of Highway No 41, where motorists were forced to use one lane to transit the area.

Nakhon Si Thammarat International Airport also announced an additional suspension of services for today and tomorrow due to a flooded runway. Technicians are scheduled to inspect the runway and the airport’s electronics systems today.

Meanwhile, Lower Pak Phanang Irrigation Office director Kornnarom Wannakul said the Pak Phanang River basin was inundated with 1 billion cubic metres of floodwater, which would take up to 20 days to drain.

In Sichon district in Nakhon Si Thammarat, soldiers from the Fourth Special Warfare Camp yesterday trekked six kilometres to aid residents of Ban Huai Kaew (Moo 3), where about 50 homes were damaged by floodwaters and a bridge connecting the village to the outside world was destroyed.

In a separate assessment, Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation chief Chatchai Phromlert yesterday said since January 1 the Southern floods had already affected 958,602 residents in the 12 provinces of Phatthalung, Narathiwat, Yala, Songkhla, Pattani, Trang, Surat Thani, Nakhon Si Thammarat, Chumphon, Ranong, Krabi and Prachuap Khiri Khan. Only in Yala had the situation been resolved, he added.

Along with the 21 reported death as of yesterday, two people were missing while five state offices, 218 road sections and 59 bridges were damaged, he said.

At Bang Saphan Hospital, officials erected sandbag barriers and installed water pumps. Although the hospital was not flooded, its surgery and childbirth services were suspended as equipment was removed as a precaution, while 30 critical patients out of the 100 being treated at the facility were moved to a six-storey building on the hospital grounds as a precaution.

As rain continued yesterday, three reservoirs in Bang Saphan were at capacity, while the area’s Anubal Bang Saphan School was closed.

In Krabi’s Muang district, which was hit by flash flooding on Sunday, floodwaters receded yesterday and the bodies of two drowned men were recovered.

Muang Krabi Municipality mayor Kiratisak Phukaoluan said 400 homes in the area had been damaged, mostly along Klong Krabi Yai, where the flooding was more extensive than that seen during the 2011 floods. His office has set up a flood-aid centre at Thesabal 1 Talad Kao School. Khao Phanom district reported that a 60-year-old woman was missing as a result of Sunday’s flooding.

A traffic policeman in Muang Krabi, Sgt-Major Kritthanapol Samranjit, was swept away by floodwaters at about 9.15pm on Sunday after he saved a child from drowning, but he was found alive tangled in a bamboo stand at about 2am yesterday. The exhausted policeman was rushed to Krabi Hospital and released later yesterday.

In Trang, whose six districts were declared flood-disaster zones affecting 50,000 people, various state offices continued to remain closed along with 25 schools including the 1,800-student Saparachinee 2 School that was under floodwaters of up to three metres deep.

Source: TheNation