Security concerns in deep South after explosion kills two monks

THE NATION, May 17, 2011

Yala, Thailand -- The group was driving to a town to collect alms in Yala's Yaha district when a suspected home-made bomb was set off.

Police found the bodies of Phra Chatree Tongrat and Phra Teerapong Dokmali of Suan Kaew Temple on a road near Bayo village in Tambon Baroh at about 6am.

Two soldiers who were seriously injured - Private Kraisorn Modkhan and Private Pannathorn Noochaikaew - were taken to a nearby hospital.

The attack occurred about three kilometres from the temple where the monks served. Phra Chatree was the acting abbot.

Police said the insurgents assembled a 20kg bomb in a 7kg cooking gas cylinder and detonated it with a wired remote. The two troops were driving the monks in a pick-up to Yaha town to collect alms.

The attack was seen from the temple where a group of soldiers had set up their base. A soldier expressed sympathy for the slain monks, who were the only ones remaining at Wat Suan Kaew.

The attack prompted monks from four temples in Yaha district - Yaha Pracharam, Suan Kaew, Wongkot Banphot and Pala - to call an urgent meeting over their security.

They agreed initially to suspend collecting alms pending clarity about more security measures and urged agencies to make it safe for Buddhists who want to make merit and offer food to monks and novices.

Office of National Buddhism director Nopparat Benjawatananun said his office backed a temporary suspension of alms collecting and would provide the temples with a meal allowance of Bt100 per monk each day, or provide them dried food, if necessary.

The governor said the insurgents were seeking to create chaos - as part of the ongoing unrest in the far South, which seen 4,370 people killed, 90 per cent of them civilians.

Colonel Tim Reunto, commander of Yala Task force unit 14, said yesterday Thai security officials were trying to find the culprits, but his main concern was possible tension between local Buddhists and Muslims. They were living in fear and paranoia of one another. Part of the insurgents' ploy was to destroy community strength and unity through religious disputes, he said.

Tim's concern was also in line with Region 4 Internal Security Operations Command chief Maj General Akara Thiproj. Thai security officials and provincial officials are talking with both Buddhist and Muslim people about the bombing and giving moral support. They also joined the Muslim religious leaders in Yaha district in prayer after the bomb attack.