Authorities are considering imposing martial law in areas in the far South where four suspects linked to Wednesday’s car robberies — in which one civilian and one militant were killed — are believed to have gone into hiding, a security source says.
Martial law is one of two options the authorities were mulling over in trying to find the culprits. The other option is to follow the normal legal process in requesting the court to approve warrants for the arrest of the four suspects the authorities were able to identify.
However, both options would require solid evidence to be gathered and an investigation summary to be watertight, to prevent the suspects from being released or acquitted later in the course of a trial.
On Thursday, Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon confirmed a group of new generation members of the Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN) insurgent movement was behind the incidents. He said four of the suspects involved have been clearly identified by authorities.
The source said the hunt will zero in on areas where the suspects are likely to be in hiding in Thepa and Saba Yoi districts of Songkhla as well as an area in Songkhla that borders Pattani. Also under surveillance are parts of Yala.
The areas on the authorities’ radar are called platong which are training grounds for senior ranking members of armed insurgent groups where they also assemble bombs and plot bomb attacks, the source said.
Army chief Chalermchai Sitthisad said the four believed to be responsible for Wednesday’s car robberies belong to a BRN group controlled by Dulloh Waemano. The dead militant suspect — Nur-arsan Arwae, 27, a resident of Pattani’s Muang district — was killed during an exchange of fire with authorities after he refused to stop one of the stolen cars at a security checkpoint in Pattani’s Nong Chik district. He was found to be a student at a privately-run Muslim religious school in Pattani’s Muang district.
The robberies reportedly started in Pattani. Internal Security Operations Command (Isoc) Region 4’s forward command said the insurgent group stole a pickup truck from a couple in Pattani’s Yarang district about 4.30am on Wednesday.
The stolen truck was then used by the suspects dressed in outfits looking similar to those of security forces to travel to the used car shop called Wang To Car Centre in Na Thawi district of Songkhla where they made off with six trucks and abducted four people including the shop owner. One hostage was killed by the insurgents and the others survived.
Security officials believe about 15 suspects in the vehicle robberies belong to at least three insurgent groups, Pattani Task Force chief Chatuphon Klamphasut said yesterday.
One group, led by Soburi Cheha Ahama Sa-i, is based in Pattani’s Mayo district, he said. Its members allegedly stole the pickup truck from the couple in Pattani on Wednesday.
Another group, responsible for fitting a bomb in one of the stolen vehicles, is believed to be run by Bukhori Lamso and Sosudi Bunane, Maj Gen Chatuphon said.