Another temple in South Thailand raided


No casualties, only damage to property

Pattani, Thailand -- Insurgents raided another temple in Pattani province yesterday, firing guns and setting fires but causing no casualties. It was the second attack on a Buddhist temple in the province this month. The first was against Wat Phromprasit in Panare district on Oct 16 when a monk and two temple boys were killed and the monk's living quarters were burnt down.

<< A monk examines the damage to a pick-up truck which was set on fire near the monks' living quarters of Wat Takhanthong in Yaring district of Pattani. The temple was attacked by militants yesterday. — JETJARAS NARANONG

Police said yesterday's attack on Wat Takhanthong in neighbouring Yaring district took place shortly after midnight when the assailants poured gasoline on two living quarters in the temple and set them ablaze.

They fired several shots at the two buildings before fleeing.

One of the living quarters belonged to Phra Prasit Thammanurak, 50, the deputy abbot of the temple.

A police team rushed to the temple with a fire engine to put out the fire, which damaged parts of the buildings and a pick-up truck parked nearby. Bullet holes were found in the buildings and the vehicle.

Pol Maj-Gen Thani Tawichsri, the deputy Region 9 Police chief, Pol Maj-Gen Kokiat Wongwarachart, the provincial police chief, and Governor Panu Uthairat went to inspect the damage and ordered police to hunt down the attackers.

A ponoh school owned by Muhamad Adam, a member of the National Reconciliation Commission, was searched by police. Three students were taken for questioning.

Officials of the Central Institute of Forensic Science who inspected the scene found a .38 pistol hidden under some leaves and two gasoline containers behind the temple.

In Yala, Yapa Muyo, 60, a former kamnan of tambon Ban Rae was shot by two men in Thanto district yesterday as he was herding his goats on a motorcycle. Yapa was seriously wounded and died later at Yala Hospital.Police Region 9 chief Lt-Gen Adul Saengsingkaew said he expected at least 10 of the 19 suspects in the raid on Wat Phromprasit to be officially charged by the end of the week.

Pol Lt-Gen Adul said although some of the suspects had confessed they were involved, police investigators needed to do more to get to the masterminds.

A source at the police forward headquarters in the South said that information from the suspects had led to a search of the houses of some of the suspects.

Police found clothes and knives with blood stains, which were sent for DNA testing in Bangkok, the source said.

If the blood stains were found to be from the monk or temple boys, they would be charged with their deaths.

The source said the suspects who confessed told police they were hired and received orders to make the temple attack from an ustaz, or a religious teacher, of a ponoh in Panare district.

The attack was planned weeks ahead.

The ustaz was one of the 19 suspects now being detained at the Region 9 police training school in Muang district of Yala. Police recovered many items in a search of his house and the school.

``Although the ustaz has denied any involvement, police have enough evidence in hand to implicate him.

``One piece of evidence is that the ustaz contacted those taking part in the raid by telephone,'' the source said.

Investigators said the ustaz, whose name was withheld, finished the highest or 10th level of religious education.

He was allegedly a member of the separatist movement in Panare district, responsible for instilling separatist ideology in young Muslims.

The investigation also found out the raid was allegedly carried out under the command of Annungwa Kaso, chief of the separatist group in Panare district.

Annungwa is wanted under arrest warrants for involvement in the murder of a judge in Pattani, the murder of a Prince of Songkla University student in Pattani and an explosion in front of Pithanpanich Co in Pattani town in which two policemen were killed.

A 500,000-baht reward has been offered to anyone with information leading to the arrest of Annungwa, believed to be operating in Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat.