BANGKOK- It used to be like a peaceful Island in the midst of a turbulent area. The CS Pattani Hotel -run by a rich Sino-Thai family involved also in politics with his owner being a senator in Bangkok- was the only four-star hotel in Pattani, a major city located in the Deep South plagued by violence. With its Indonesian-inspired design, its collection of Southern art and wooden cages, the CS Pattani was known as THE place to meet up. Politicians, Muslim opponents, military and probably all intelligence services based in the area were regularly gathering there to discuss and evaluate the situation in the three Southern provinces.
Except that on July 31st, a bomb exploded in the back of the hotel at 7pm in a pickup truck, causing a fire in the building. No casualties were however reported but 80 hotel rooms were damaged. Three people were reported slightly wounded.
With attacks and bombs hitting again a peak in the deep south, they are increasing concerns that the nearby province of Songkhla could be also the target of fundamentalist insurgents. A particular target could be the city of Hat Yai, an important urban centre with a population of 250,000 people.
The government decided over the week-end to tight up security on all roads linking Songkhla districts to the Southern neighbour provinces. Checkpoints were set up on roads to Chana, the last city in Songkhla province before entering into Pattani province. Checkpoints control all cars and motorcycles passing through with officials hoping that it will deter attempts to bring bombs to Hat Yai. The city is a popular destination for neighbouring Malaysians.
A bomb already exploded last March at the Lee Gardens Plaza Hotel in the Southern metropolis, killing three people and injuring another 350. The government also set up a new command centre in Bangkok to better coordinate action from all agencies involved into the Southern problems. Violence in the South of Thailand flared up from 2006 claiming life of hundreds of people. The three provinces of Narathiwat, Pattani and Yala are predominantly Malay-Muslim and have been in more or less open conflict with the Central Thai government with many of the local Muslims feeling marginalized and discriminated by Bangkok’s ruling.