CONTENT PREVIEW
Terrorism & Insurgency

Explosives attack on Covid-19 response meeting highlights threat of sustained insurgency campaign in southern Thailand

20 March 2020
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Post-blast inspection after double IED-attack in Yala, southern Thailand, on 17 March 2020. Source: Getty Images

Key Points

  • No responsibility has so far been claimed for the 17 March explosives attack on a government building in Yala Province, southern Thailand, that had wounded 20 people. The scale, tactics, and capabilities reflected in the attack strongly suggest that the Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN), a local insurgent group, had perpetrated the violence.
  • With decade-long counter-insurgency efforts failing and meaningful peace negotiations stalled between the BRN and Thai government, it is unlikely that violence in the region will decrease during the coming 6–12 months.
  • That the attack targeted a meeting of officials to discuss the Covid-19 pandemic underlines the potential for militants elsewhere to capitalise on the global situation for opportunistic operations and to exacerbate existing instability and insecurity.

On 17 March, a double explosive device attack targeting a government meeting at the Southern Border Provinces Administration Center in Yala, southern Thailand, wounded 20 people. The attack occurred as hundreds of local officials and Muslim clerics had gathered to discuss the response to Covid-19 viral outbreak, indicating willingness and ability on the part of the perpetrators to react swiftly and take full advantage of the emergency conditions created by the global pandemic.

In keeping with previous such operations conducted by local Malay Muslim separatist group Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN), an initial roadside improvised explosive device (IED) was detonated with the likely intention of drawing participants outside from the meeting, whereupon a secondary device emplaced in a pickup truck was detonated. Media quoted police officers who stated that surveillance videos had picked up a suspected attacker fleeing the scene on a waiting motorcycle immediately preceding the explosions. Although no group has so far claimed responsibility, the scale, tactics, and capabilities employed to conduct the attack strongly suggest that the BRN is behind it. Moreover, the BRN rarely acknowledges or denies involvement in such situations.

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