“I would like to praise the officials for their good intelligence that helped fend off this attack,” Defense Minister Sukumpol Suwannatat told a press briefing in Bangkok today. “We are still on high alert.” The government and army will meet on Feb. 15 to discuss whether to impose curfews in the nation’s three southernmost provinces, he said.
The shootout ended with 16 militants killed and the rest fleeing, Somkiat said. The death toll was reduced from the initial figure of 19 given out earlier Wednesday by regional army spokesman Col. Pramote Promin.
The losses Wednesday were the most since guerrillas launched simultaneous attacks on police stations and checkpoints in the three provinces in April 2004, triggering clashes in which more than 100 militants were killed, 32 of them at the Kreu-Sae mosque in Pattani where they were holed up.
Cmdr. Thammanoon Wanna, who oversees the marine corps base, said the troops had braced for Wednesday’s assault after authorities discovered a sketch that mapped out the insurgents’ plans on a militant who was shot dead in recent days.
Regional army commander Lt. Gen. Udomchai Thammasaroraj said in an interview on ThaiPBS channel that the army has declared a curfew for the area within 5 kilometers (3 miles) of the base for Wednesday night into Thursday.
“The insurgents were uplifted because of a surge in their successful attacks in recent weeks, so this is a significant loss on their side,” said Sunai Phasuk, a Bangkok-based researcher for Human Rights Watch. “From now, authorities will certainly have to be very concerned about their retaliation.”
“What we know so far is at least 60 armed insurgents opened fire at our marine base in Bacho at around 1:30 a.m. this morning and 17 of them were killed,” Lieutenant-General Paradorn Pattanathabutr, secretary-general of the National Security Council of Thailand, told Reuters
He added that Maroso Jantarawadeea, a key local leader of the fighters, who wore bullet-proof vests during the attack, was among the dead.
Authorities had offered two million baht bounty for the capture of Maroso, who was involved in several murders in the far South, including a recent killing of a school teacher
Bangkok Post‘s Wassana has tweeted a picture showing the dead body of Maroso (it is picture of a dead body so be warned)
Bangkok Post‘s Wassana now tweets that the Fourth Army Region Commander has stated they have not declared a curfew, but asked for cooperation for people in the surrounding areas to stay indoors until 6 a.m. tomorrow morning.
Bangkok Post‘s Wassana also tweets quoting the Defence Minister as expressing sadness to the families of the dead who he said were misled ( ที่หลงผิด).
Bancha of Nation Channel tweets quoting the Defence Minister as stating there were 70-80 insurgents.
Bancha of Nation Channel also tweets that relatives of the 16 dead have come to collect the bodies and state that the deceased had not been at home for a long time.
BP: So between 60-100 armed insurgents went to attack a marine base. The authorities stopped the attack and suffered no deaths although no clear information on how many marines were injured. 16-17 insurgents were killed, including an insurgent leader, and many more were likely injured. The manhunt is underway for the remaining insurgents.
It was not just good luck that prevented absolute carnage. This is a clear intelligence success. Now, we see wait the likely retaliatory attacks by the insurgents…
“Some 100 fully armed militants stormed the base, where there were 60 marines,” Colonel Pramote Promin, southern army spokesman, told AFP on Wednesday.
No military casualties were reported in the early hours assault at the base in Bacho district of Narathiwat province, one of three Muslim-dominated provinces near the border with Malaysia.
“We learned of the attack in advance from defected militants,” Pramote told Thai television.
“We were able to secure the camp. All of our force are safe.“
The Bangkok Post:
Post Today is reporting this morning that at about 1:00am a group of about 50 southern insurgents attacked a marine base in Bacho district of Narathiwat.
Thai soldiers, who had been tipped off in advance by local residents, returned fire, killing 17 insurgents. They captured at least 13 M16 rifles and two pistols. No deaths or injuries were reported among the soldiers.
According to Colonel Pramote Promin, head of the public relations centre and deputy spokesperson for the Internal Security Operations Command (ISOC) for region 4, the insurgents were heavily armed and were disguised as soldiers. They were wearing bullet-proof vests and came in two pickup trucks.
Matichon reports the authorities as saying “at least” 17 were killed and the others escaped into the jungle although it states there were about 50 insurgents.
The manhunt will begin for the insurgents who escaped with the Bangkok Post‘s Wassana tweeting that the Fourth Army Region Commander states that they used their powers under security laws to declare a 24 hour curfew in a number of districts in Narathiwat and Pattani from 6am today until 6am* tomorrow.
BP: The insurgents have attacked Thai military bases in the past. From memory, there was an attack back in January 2004 which you could say was the first attack that signaled an increase in intensity in the (then) dormant insurgency – and also an attack in early 2011 of an army outpost in Narathiwat killing 4.
Based on all news we know now, the current attack has been a complete failure and will provide the authorities and the government with a much needed boost in public perception on their capability on dealing with the insurgency and that the authorities do have intelligence sources who can provide information. It will also provide a morale boost for the army.
However, this attack on the marine base involved at least 50 insurgents so the possibility of a leak was much higher. This is in contrast with most of the daily attacks which are small-scale and involve only a few insurgents (understood to be within the same small cell at village level and with little central direction). This is not to diminish the success in repelling the current attack, but don’t expect it to mean a drop off in attacks and the number of dead and injured in the coming months.
*corrected from PM
**Changed headline from army to marines; revised from 17 to 16 to reflect more updates news stories