Insurgent group responsible for Yala, Hat Yai bombings: Yuthasak

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BANGKOK, April 1 – Deputy Prime Minister Yuthasak Sasiprapa said on Sunday that Saturday’s car bombs in Yala and Hat Yai might be the work of the same group of insurgents aiming to discredit and pressure the government.

Fourteen people were killed and more than 500 were injured in a string of mid-day car bombs in the two southern border provinces of Yala and Songkhla. Among those killed was a Malaysian male tourist who died from a car bomb in the basement of Lee Gardens Plaza Hotel in Hat Yai, the heart of the south frequented by Malaysian and Singaporean tourists.

Speaking after a security meeting, Gen Yuthasak, who oversees national security, said he could not disclose details of the insurgent group but things will become clearer within the next few days.

Security will be stepped up in at-risk areas, in particular the southern border provinces of Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat with integrated work among police, military and the Southern Border Provinces Administrative Centre (SBPAC), the deputy premier said.

There will be no troop reinforcements in the region, he added.

Prior to the security meeting, Gen Yuthasak blamed the security lapse on the lack of emergency law enforcement that partly resulted in Yala car bombs which killed 11 people.

Meanwhile, police investigators said a sedan used in the hotel blast was the same one stolen from a local official who was shot dead last year in insurgency-torn Narathiwat.

Level 3 security at Hat Yai Airport, 15 km from bombed hotel, have remained in place since the bomb incidents in Bangkok’s Sukhumvit in February. Checkpoints have been set up along the road to the airport to ensure safety to air travelers, according to Group Captain Noranit Pholkanond, general manager of Hat Yai International Airport.

He said there was no cancellation of 38 daily flights at the airport, which serves an average of 5,000 passengers per day.

Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs advised Singaporeans to postpone non-essential travel to Yala, Pattani, Narathiwat and Songkhla in southern Thailand temporarily, Malaysian Bernama news agency reported on Sunday.

“Our Embassy in Bangkok has been in contact with 31 Singaporeans in Hat Yai, including 10 were at the Lee Gardens Plaza Hotel, and has established that they are safe, the ministry spokesman was quoted as saying.