16 gunmen killed in Thai military base attack

In one of the most deadly attacks in Thailand's long-running insurgency, scores of heavily-armed gunmen stormed a southern army base Wednesday, authorities said, leaving 16 militants dead.

In the unusually brazen early-morning assault, 100 militants, dressed in army fatigues and armed with AK47 and M16 assault rifles, attacked the base in Narathiwat province, unit commander Captain Somkiat Pholprayoon said.

"Sixteen militants were confirmed dead after the attack," he told reporters at the scene, adding that the military and police were in "hot pursuit" of the 60 to 70 militants who fled the base after the attack.

The government expressed sorrow over the deaths, one of the highest single death tolls in some eight years of violence in Thailand's deep south, but praised the military operation, saying the army had had no choice.

"The government has no policy of using violence to deal with southern unrest but in this incident (militants) attacked the military base," Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yubamrung told reporters in Bangkok.

A shadowy insurgency has been fighting for greater autonomy for the country's southernmost provinces since 2004, with shootings and bombings occurring on a near-daily basis.

More than 5,500 people have been killed, both Buddhist and Muslim, in the bloody conflict.

Chalerm, who heads the government's special body in charge of the southern unrest, recently proposed imposing a curfew in certain areas of the most affected provinces.

"If we impose a curfew then militants will find it more difficult to enter the area," he said Wednesday.

Religious leaders oppose the move, saying it will do nothing to solve the underlying problems. The Thai cabinet is set to discuss the proposal Friday.

Critics accuse the government of failing to address the grievances of Thailand's Malay Muslim minority, including alleged abuses by the military and a perceived lack of respect for their ethnic identity, language and religion.

Members of Thailand's security forces are frequently targeted in ambushes and roadside bombs, but organised attacks on military bases are relatively rare.

No military casualties were reported in the early hours assault at the base in the Bacho district of Narathiwat province, one of three Muslim-dominated provinces near the border with Malaysia. An army spokesman had earlier put the militants' death toll at 17.

"We learned of the attack in advance from defected militants," Colonel Pramote Promin, southern army spokesman told Thai television.

He added that a key local leader of the fighters, who wore bulletproof vests during the attack, had been killed in the clashes.

Southern army commander Lieutenant General Udomchai Thammasarorat called for local villagers to stay in their homes for 24-hours, for their "safety and to prevent any confusion during the pursuit of militants", he told broadcaster Thai PBS.

A report by the International Crisis Group on the violence in December said insurgents had grown "bolder and stronger" amid political inaction from successive Bangkok governments.

The attack Wednesday is "part of a trend" towards bigger, bolder attacks by militants showing a new "willingness on the part of militants to engage the security forces head on," said Matthew Wheeler, an ICG South East Asia Analyst.

"The fact that so many militants were killed is very unusual," he said, adding the last time there was such a high death toll was in April, 2004.

The ICG report recommended a greater push towards decentralisation and closer engagement with local civil society groups and peace negotiations with insurgents.

It added that the deployment of 60,000 security forces and an emergency decree "have not achieved any appreciable decline in casualties".

Loading...

Editor’s note:Yahoo Philippines encourages responsible comments that add dimension to the discussion. No bashing or hate speech, please. You can express your opinion without slamming others or making derogatory remarks.

  • China ignores global outcry vs reclamation
    China ignores global outcry vs reclamation

    On Wednesday, G-7 foreign ministers issued a Declaration on Maritime Security expressing alarm over “unilateral actions, such as large scale land reclamation, which change the status quo and increase tensions” in the region. In their communiqué, which did not specifically mention China, the ministers expressed belief that reclamation activities were meant to “change the status quo” in the West Philippine Sea and South China Sea, through which 40 percent of global trade passes. …

  • Project NOAH exec receives recognition
    Project NOAH exec receives recognition

    Project NOAH executive director and University of the Philippines professor Mahar Lagmay recently received recognition from the European Geosciences Union (EGU) for his work in disaster risk reduction and mitigation in the Philippines. …

  • Nightclub ban for US troops
    Nightclub ban for US troops

    The US Pacific Command has banned its troops in the Philippines from bars and nightclubs, a spokesman said yesterday, with the trial under way of a US Marine accused of murdering a transgender Filipino he met in a bar. Thousands of American and Filipino soldiers will kick off tomorrow the 10-day annual military exercises, according to Capt. Alex Lim, a spokesman for the US forces, but there will be strict controls on their free time. Lim would not say why the restrictions were imposed but …

  • US-Phl war games to start under China’s shadow
    US-Phl war games to start under China’s shadow

    Thousands of American and Filipino soldiers will kick off tomorrow expanded wargames, showcasing a deepening  defense alliance as alarm bells ring over China. The 10-day exercises in the Philippines are an annual affair between the longtime allies, but this time they will involve double the number of soldiers as last year in a sign of their expanding military partnership. The Philippines is seeking more US military and diplomatic support to fend off China’s increasing forcefulness in its bid …

  • Palace defends legal tack in sea row
    Palace defends legal tack in sea row

    There is nothing weak about taking the legal and diplomatic approach to push for the country’s claims in the disputed West Philippine Sea, Malacañang maintained yesterday. On Friday, Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares led a rally in front of the Chinese consulate in Makati City to protest China’s massive reclamation activities in the Spratly island group to fortify its presence in the disputed waters. Colmenares also criticized the Philippine government for supposedly not doing enough to defend …

  • Veloso sons urge authorities to save mother from death
    Veloso sons urge authorities to save mother from death

    The sons of Mary Jane Veloso, who is facing execution in Indonesia for drug smuggling, yesterday appealed to government officials to do everything to spare their mother from death. “We love you,” Mark Daniel, 12, said when asked for a message for his mother following a press conference at the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City. Mark Daniel, an incoming Grade 8 student, reiterated his appeal to those in power to help save his mother from death. His younger brother, …

  • US-Philippines wargames to start under China's shadow
    US-Philippines wargames to start under China's shadow

    Thousands of American and Filipino soldiers on Monday will kick off expanded wargames, showcasing a deepening defence alliance as alarm bells ring over China. The 10-day exercises in the Philippines are an annual affair between the longtime allies, but this time they will involve double the number of soldiers as last year in a sign of their expanding military partnership. The Philippines is seeking more US military and diplomatic support to fend off China's increasing forcefulness in its bid …

  • Bar ban for US troops in Philippines amid murder trial
    Bar ban for US troops in Philippines amid murder trial

    The US Pacific Command has banned its troops in the Philippines from bars and nightclubs, a spokesman said Saturday, with the trial under way of a US Marine accused of murdering a transgender Filipina he met in a bar. Thousands of American and Filipino soldiers will on Monday kick off 10-day annual military excercises, according to Captain Alex Lim, a spokesman for the US forces, but there will be strict controls on their free time. Lim would not say why the restrictions were imposed but …

POLL

Should Aquino be held accountable over the Mamasapano operations?

Loading...
Poll Choice Options