Father and 4-year-old daughter killed after bomb strikes school in Thailand’s restive south

The device, packed in the fuel tank of the parked motorcycle, struck as pupils and teachers filed into the school for the start of the day

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 06 September, 2016, 2:37pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 06 September, 2016, 10:43pm

A four-year-old girl and her father were killed when a bomb hidden in a motorcycle was detonated outside a school in Thailand’s insurgency-plagued south, authorities said Tuesday.

The device, packed in the fuel tank of the parked motorcycle, struck as pupils and teachers filed into the school in Tak Bai district of Narathiwat province for the start of the day.

“The two dead were father and daughter,” Noppdol Kingthong, a Tak Bai police detective, said. The bomb was set off by radio control as the pair were near the school gate on a motorbike, he added.

A hospital worker confirmed the death toll, adding that 10 other adults were wounded in the blast, including civilians and four police officers.

Phone lines to the remote area were cut by security forces as rebels often use mobile signals to detonate bombs.

Insurgents in the kingdom’s so-called ‘Deep South’ frequently target schools and teachers as a symbol of Thai state power over the culturally distinct Muslim-majority region, which Thailand colonised more than a century ago.

Thailand’s forgotten war: recent blasts force southern insurgency back into the spotlight

More than 6,500 people – the majority civilian – have been killed by rebels and Thai security forces since 2004 in near-daily bombings and shootings in the southernmost provinces bordering Malaysia.

Police and military accompany teachers and children to and from schools in the most dangerous ‘red zones’ in the south.

Scores of teachers have been killed by rebels – some executed in front of pupils.

Thai police reverse previous statements and claim they are investigating southern rebels over bombings

“The bomb is an attempt by militants to incite unrest and aimed to kill ... indiscriminately as shown by the four-year-old victim,” Colonel Pramote Prom-in, spokesman for the Thai army in the south, said in social media statement.

The under-reported conflict in Thailand’s southermost provinces hit the headlines last month after rare bomb attacks in tourist hotspots inside the kingdom killed four people and wounded dozens, including foreigners.

Those attacks carried the hallmarks of the southern rebels.

But Thai authorities have so far been keen to downplay any possible expansion of the southern conflict – unrest that has so far remained highly localised for more than a decade.

That is despite the identification of five suspects for those attacks – all Muslim men from the deep south, several of whom have a record of involvement in the insurgency.

On Friday, the Thai junta held talks with a group that claims to represent the political aims of the shadowy rebels.

The discussions are to set the ground for formal peace talks, which stalled following Thailand’s 2014 coup.

With bombings, Thai militants appear to be sending a message to the junta

But it is unclear if the rebel representatives at the table have command-and-control over increasingly blood thirsty foot soldiers.

The military is also widely distrusted by Malay Muslims in the south.

Rights groups says years of abuses by security forces including extrajudicial killings, have eroded faith in the Thai state, which is also accused of railroading the local culture.