THAILAND: News media caution on south urged

Army commander criticizes inaccurate news reports of insurgent activity in the south

Bangkok Post
Sunday, May 31, 2009

By Winchayant Boonchote

The media should not play up or sensationalise reports about the southern insurgency as it could end up serving as a propaganda tool for the militants, warned Fourth Army commander Pichet Wisaijorn yesterday.

Lt Gen Pichet said accurate and unbiased reporting would be helpful in restoring peace in the region.

The Fourth Army chief was speaking at a seminar on the role of newsmen in covering insurgency stories in Hat Yai district yesterday.

Lt Gen Pichet said the militants are doing whatever it takes to stay in the news, including perpetrating a new wave of violence in Pattani and Yala.

The situation is not as serious as the militants try to make it look, as there have been no casualties in many of the recent attacks.

"What the intelligence agency is really concerned about is inaccurate reporting on the southern unrest. Instead of helping the authorities, they could be unknowingly doing the insurgents a big favour," he said.

In Narathiwat, the Si Sakhon police station in Si Sakhon district came under a grenade and gun attack on Friday night.

Three bombs planted near the station were immediately defused after being discovered yesterday morning.

A group of gunmen fired M79 grenades at the station about 9.30 on Friday night and then traded gun fire with police for 20 minutes before retreating. No one was injured in the attack.

The first of the three home-made bombs was found by a road about 100 metres from the station, the second near a security checkpoint, and the third nearby a petrol station.

A bomb disposal unit was called in to defuse them.

In Tak Bai district of Narathiwat, a house was sprayed with bullets by gunmen who also planted an 18kg bomb there. No one was injured.

Police said the gunmen were trying to lure them to the shooting scene so they could detonate the bomb by remote-control.

However, the officers scrambled the mobile phone signal and managed to defuse the bomb that was found in a flower pot at a house owned by a 58-year-old woman, Maedum Issaro.

Meanwhile, in Songkhla, a fire broke out at the Hai Yai hospital yesterday morning.

The blaze, which started in an electrical control room, took about 30 minutes to put out.

No one was hurt in the fire which was blamed on technical faults in the power generator.