Skip to main content

Thai forces thwart attack on military base, killing 16 insurgents

By Kocha Olarn, CNN
February 14, 2013 -- Updated 0052 GMT (0852 HKT)
Policemen inspect a bomb site in the southern province of Narathiwat on Sunday, part of a recent wave of separatist violence.
Policemen inspect a bomb site in the southern province of Narathiwat on Sunday, part of a recent wave of separatist violence.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: The Thai military says 16 insurgents were killed, one fewer than previously stated
  • The heavily armed militants attacked under cover of darkness, military officials say
  • But the Thai navy personnel in the base were ready after receiving a tip, the officials say
  • Muslim separatists in southern Thailand have been fighting government forces for years

Bangkok, Thailand (CNN) -- Sixteen insurgents were killed during a fierce battle after they attacked a military base in a restive area of southern Thailand early Wednesday, authorities said.

Thai military officials said 50 to 60 heavily armed attackers tried to storm the navy base in the province of Narathiwat under cover of darkness, but navy personnel had been forewarned and fought the insurgents off in an intense, hour-long firefight.

It appeared to be the latest flare-up in a worsening conflict between government forces and Muslim separatists in southern Thailand in which more than 5,000 people are believed to have been killed since 2004.

Although Thailand's population is overwhelmingly Buddhist, Muslims make up a large percentage of the population in the country's three southernmost provinces, near the border with Malaysia.

Parts of those provinces have been under an emergency security decree for years, but analysts say the Thai military is struggling to deal with the militants.

"Insurgents have withstood and adapted to the military's tactics, growing more proficient and daring in the process," the International Crisis Group, a nonprofit organization that provides analysis and advocacy on conflicts around the world, said in December.

Meanwhile, successive Thai governments "have opted to muddle through South East Asia's most violent internal conflict," the group said in a report on the conflict, citing "bureaucratic turf battles and a bitter national-level political struggle."

Well-armed attackers

The insurgents who carried out the attack Wednesday were armed with military-grade weapons, including laser-guided rifles and hand grenades, said Col. Pramote Promin, a spokesman for the Thai military.

Some of the roughly 100 Thai navy personnel on the base were wounded in the fighting, he said, but none were killed. The military had received a tip about the attack and was "on full alert" when it happened, he added.

The military is now trying to track down wounded insurgents who fled from the clash, Pramote said after visiting the area.

He said that after a count at the base, the number of insurgents killed stood at 16, one fewer than the initial total he gave earlier Wednesday.

There was no word Wednesday from the elusive Muslim separatists, who don't usually claim responsibility for attacks they carry out.

Unrest linked to arrest

On Sunday, a roadside bomb in Yala province, which is next to Narathiwat, killed five Thai soldiers, authorities said.

Lt. Gen. Dithaporn Sasasmit, a spokesman for the Thai internal security operations command, said recently that the latest insurgent violence is related to the arrest of one of the separatist leaders in January.

"Every time when authorities can arrest or conduct raid operations to prevent possible attacks, they would try to show off and create some situations," Sasasmit said.

Human Rights Watch last year said that in 2011, insurgent groups targeted teachers they saw as symbols of state efforts to undermine Malay Muslim identity. The group said that Thai security forces have faced few consequences for abuses against Muslims.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
November 27, 2014 -- Updated 0059 GMT (0859 HKT)
Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson says he was just doing his "job right" when he shot and killed black teenager Michael Brown.
November 24, 2014 -- Updated 0118 GMT (0918 HKT)
The interior of the Formosa Boulevard Mass Rapid Transit Station in Kaohsiung, in southern Taiwan.
Stunning stations where your first priority won't be finding the nearest exit.
November 25, 2014 -- Updated 2318 GMT (0718 HKT)
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says women's "nature is different," sparking fury.
November 24, 2014 -- Updated 1043 GMT (1843 HKT)
A 30-year-old woman has been charged with attempting to kill a baby police say spent five days down a drain before being discovered by cyclists.
November 21, 2014 -- Updated 0121 GMT (0921 HKT)
If it wasn't for a comic's skit, Bill Cosby would still be America's favorite father, says expert.
November 24, 2014 -- Updated 0051 GMT (0851 HKT)
Where do hip young things hang out in Taiwan?
November 21, 2014 -- Updated 1550 GMT (2350 HKT)
Obama orders the most sweeping overhaul of U.S. immigration in decades, prioritizing the deportation of "felons, not families."
November 18, 2014 -- Updated 2106 GMT (0506 HKT)
Fighters loyal to ISIS are now in control of Derna, a city on Libya's Mediterranean coast.
November 21, 2014 -- Updated 2319 GMT (0719 HKT)
China and likely other countries have the capacity to shut down the U.S. power grid, says the NSA.
November 19, 2014 -- Updated 1945 GMT (0345 HKT)
The founder of a U.S. nonprofit that works with returning soldiers is named CNN's Hero of the Year.
November 26, 2014 -- Updated 1557 GMT (2357 HKT)
Each day, CNN brings you an image capturing a moment to remember, defining the present in our changing world.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT