BANGKOK, Feb. 25 (UPI) -- Muslim insurgents in Thailand's troubled southern Muslim provinces launched a series of similarly timed reprisal attacks.
The 29 assaults included bombings and arson after a failed militant attack by about 50 fighters wearing combat uniforms assaulted a Thai marine corps base in Narathiwat's Bacho district.
The near-simultaneous attacks occurred between 7:30 p.m. and midnight Saturday in six Pattani districts. Seven local self-defense volunteers were injured in a bomb blast but local officers said the situation was under control by 2 a.m. Sunday.
A security source told the Bangkok Post that Muslim militants led by Masore Dueramaethe were believed to have carried out the attacks. Dueramaethe's group is also blamed for multiple bombings and arson attacks Feb. 16 in Pattani's provincial center.
Thai Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yubamrung, who is in charge of security operations in Thailand's three southern Muslim provinces, said he had been expecting reprisal attacks after the deaths of 16 militants. He said he instructed security forces to increase their presence in the region to deter revenge attacks, particularly on Makha Bucha Day, which fell Monday.
Thai army 4th Region Forward Command of the Internal Security Operations Command spokesman Col. Pramote Prommin said the attacks were a concerted attempt by militants to retaliate over the Marine base raid. One reason for the retaliation, he said, was that key militant leader Maroso Chantharawadee was among the dead and several insurgent leaders had also been arrested during the past several months.
Pramote noted that the insurgents probably launched the attacks to indicate that they are still active and to respond to the government's imposition of the Internal Security Act the country's southern regions.
The ISA makes it easier for insurgents to surrender to authorities without fear of punishment.
Police said they have security camera footage in a number of the attacks showing the suspects in action. While the attacks were widespread, many were minor incidents.
Thailand's three southern Muslin districts used to be an Islamic sultanate until annexed by Thailand in the early 20th century. Muslims in Yala, Pattani, Narathiwat and part of Songkhla provinces have long complained of discrimination by the Buddhist-dominated central government.
Since November 2004 the region has been roiled by a rising insurgency by militants seeking an independent Muslim state in southern Thailand. More than 5,300 Thais, both Buddhist and Muslim, have died in the violence.
In 2005 Thai authorities imposed a state of emergency on the southern provinces but the hard-line stance failed to halt the rising violence.
Muslim militant groups operating in Thailand include the Mujahedeen Pattani Movement, the Pattani United Liberation Organization, the Pattani Islamic Mujahedeen Movement, the Mujahedeen Islamic Pattani Group, the National Revolution Front, the Pattani Liberation National Front, Jemaah Islamiyah and Runda Kumpulan Kecil.