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Hotel becomes battleground in Thailand again
Publication Date : 05-08-2012
One of the most popular hotels in Thailand's deep South, frequented by people from all walks of life, has once again been targeted in a car-bomb attack this past week.
But this time, the blast came from the back of the hotel. Several glass windowpanes were shattered, along with the brick wall next to which the vehicle was parked. Half of the town of Pattani plunged into darkness for several hours as the explosive took out a transformer nearby.
The message the insurgents seemed to want to convey from the previous attack on the CS Pattani Hotel, which took place in March 2008, was that there was no neutral ground. Two were killed and about 15 were injured in the latest incident, which was billed as a response to massive sweeping operations and shakedown in remote villages that resulted in hundreds of "vulnerable" young men coming on the military's watch list.
Prior to the March 2008 attack, the CS Pattani had a "Rick's Cafe" status, a term used by one foreign diplomat in reference to the hangout in the movie Casablanca, a neutral turf where all World War II warring parties mingled.
The March 2008 attack didn't totally shatter that notion as officials and customers continued to frequent the hotel. It continued to be the venue for some of the fiercest debates among top government officials, local elites, Muslim clerics, human-rights activists and local politicians.
Authorities are currently on the lookout for 19 stolen vehicles - 14 pickup trucks, four cars and a van - that could potentially be used in bomb attacks.
Back in 2008, the head of Pattani's military task force had predicted that the militants would no longer enjoy the support of local residents for hitting soft targets.
Today, the militants are as strong as ever and continue to enjoy the support of local residents. The villagers have figured out that the conflict is not a religious one. Unfortunately, the Thai side hasn't.