The serene early morning hours of Saturday in Tak Bai district, Narathiwat province, were marred by an unfortunate event. Suspected militants orchestrated several well-coordinated attacks that sent the close-knit community in a state of shock. The easy-going southern border province was brought to life in a terrifying way, with police officials quickly alerted about the evolving situation.
A cleverly crafted improvised explosive device (IED) fashioned out of a fire extinguisher cylinder exploded outside a local gold shop in the small town of Chehe. Its detonation shattered the shop’s front, revealing the intensity of the explosion, according to Pol Lt Col Jarukit Sridech, the interim chief of the Tak Bai police station, who was notified around 1.30 am.
In the same breath, an unknown group of armed individuals unleashed a rain of bullets on a security checkpoint, about 50 metres from the attacked gold shop. This audacious act pushed the seven officers on duty to respond in kind, leading to a gripping and tense half an hour gunfight. The gunmen retreated into the embracing shadows of a nearby forest when additional forces swooped in on the scene.
Meanwhile, reports were coming thick and fast of further infrastructural damages. A power pole about 200 metres from the checkpoint had been ravaged by a roadside bombing attack. Officers were also directed to an explosive device coyly lodged beneath a power pole on the opposite side, fortunately, before it could wreak havoc.
Saturday morning saw the villagers take the role of active citizens, assisting the police in their investigation. They reported spotting two more IEDs skilfully hidden along local roads in Chehe. Authorities were quick to act, swiftly sealing off the perimeters to maintain safety.
The chain of violent incidents didn’t stop there. Later, another roadside bombing in Tak Bai’s Khosit sent shockwaves across the community. This powerful explosion led to ten power poles toppling over, generating a temporary halt to the traffic flow.
In the sleepy district of Sungai Kolok, inside the hamlet of Muno, two more incidents were reported early on Saturday. Pol Col Direk Chomyong, the acting chief of the Muno police station, brought attention to the detonation of a homemade bomb that had brutally damaged a village power pole. There was also another bomb hidden inside a fire extinguisher found chillingly nestled underneath another power pole. More investigations are being carried out to understand the nearly surreal situation.
These harrowing sequences of events occurred ominously on the eve of the 19th anniversary of Tak Bai massacre, a tragic day that locals recall with sadness and dismay. The incident, which took place on Oct 25, 2004, saw the horrifying death of 85 protesters who tragically suffocated. They were arrested and clumsily piled on top of each other like some cruel game of human tetris in two military trucks, all while being transported to a military camp in Pattani province.