RATE OF VIOLENCE INCREASES IN SOUTHERN THAILAND
The rate of violence in southern Thailand has been steadily increasing as insurgents continue to mount coordinated bomb attacks against government, military and commercial interests. The latest coordinated attacks were executed on August 31, when insurgents targeted at least 20 commercial banks in Yala province (Phuchatkan, August 31). The attacks caused many injuries and temporarily shut down numerous banks. Immediately after the attacks, the spokesman for Thailand’s Southern Border Provinces Peace-Building Command (SBPPC), Col. Somkuan Sangpataranet, announced that the SBPPC had increased the presence of security forces around potential targets, including banks, to protect against future attacks. Despite the announcement, however, it is unclear whether the government will be able to prevent another large coordinated attack. On August 1, for instance, insurgents rocked southern Thailand with more than 100 bombing and arson attacks (Bangkok Post, August 4). The August 1 bombings came less than two months after the June 15 bombing campaign in southern Thailand, where, in the course of four days, approximately 74 bombs were detonated, including 50 on the first day (Terrorism Focus, June 27). The almost three year insurgency has claimed more than 1,500 lives.
PAKISTAN WITHDRAWS TROOPS FROM BORDER REGION
According to press reports, the Pakistani government has begun withdrawing troops from parts of the troubled North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) situated on the country’s long, porous border with Afghanistan. The withdrawal came ahead of the signing of a peace agreement between local Taliban militants and the federal government. The deal came after the appointment of a new governor to the NWFP, Lieutenant General Ali Mohammad Jan Orakzai. The new governor had repeatedly said that he planned to bring peace to the region, which has been the site of frequent fighting between local Taliban militants and government troops. Orakzai is a tribal man himself, hailing from the NWFP’s Orakzai Agency (for more information, see Terrorism Monitor, June 15). As part of the peace deal, the government made a major concession by agreeing that foreign fighters could remain in the region provided that they follow local laws and abide by tribal norms (Dawn, September 3).