Thai rebels excluded from talks take responsibility for Ramadan bombings

Reuters file photo
Muslims celebrate Eid al-Fitr, the Muslim festival marking the end of the holy fasting month of Ramadan, at a mosque amid the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Pattani province, Thailand, May 24, 2020.

BANGKOK, April 16 (Reuters) – Thai rebels sidelined from peace talks claimed responsibility on Saturday for deadly bombings in the country’s Muslim-majority deep south that broke a Ramadan holiday agreed between the main rebel group and the government.

The two explosions on Friday, which killed a civilian and injured three policemen, were carried out by “G5”, a militant group of the Patani United Liberation Organisation (PULO), its president, Kasturi Mahkota, told Reuters.

More than 7,300 people have been killed since 2004 in the fighting between the government and shadowy groups seeking independence for the Malay-Muslim provinces of Narathiwat, Yala, Pattani and parts of Songkhla. The area was part of the Patani sultanate that Thailand annexed in a 1909 treaty with Britain.

Mahkota said by telephone the blasts in Pattani province represent “business as usual” for PULO, left out of the talks between the government and the Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN), which agreed two weeks ago to stop violence during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan through May 14.

A spokesman for the Thai security forces in the south, Colonel Kiatisak Neewong, said without naming PULO that a group not included in the peace talks were likely responsible for bombings aimed at disrupting the Ramadan truce.

The Thai team at the peace talks and the BRN declined to comment.

“The talks are not inclusive enough and it is going too fast,” said Kasturi, whose group objects to the agreement that would exclude the possibility of independence from Buddhist-majority Thailand.

The talks seek a political solution to the decades-long conflict under the framework of the Thai constitution. Talks have been frequently disrupted since beginning in 2013. The latest round started in 2019.