Police insist arrested suspects not scapegoats
A combined force of hundreds of police, soldiers and civilian officials has been deployed to go after 13 armed militants who remain at large after unleashing a barrage of bullets at six soldiers patrolling on motorcycles in Pattani’s Mayo district on Saturday morning.
Most of the militants were natives of Mayo and further investigations found they were still hiding in the district, Mayo police chief Pol Col Gong-aut Suwannakham told the Bangkok Post.
Pol Col Gong-aut said witnesses called in for questioning yesterday confirmed they could help identify many of the assailants from footage captured on a concealed CCTV camera installed near the scene of the shootout.
“We want more villagers who witnessed the crime scene and also knew these militants to help provide us with information that could lead to more arrests soon,” the police chief said.
Pol Col Gong-aut said he is confident the three suspects already arrested in connection with the killings were involved in Saturday’s widely-publicised attack, which killed four soldiers and wounded two others.
The suspects were not arrested as scapegoats for the incident, he insisted.
The three were caught after a joint force of 50 military, police and civilian officials raided their homes in tambon Namsai of Pattani’s Mayo district.
The sting operation came just hours after 16 heavily-armed militants opened fire on the six soldiers, who were patrolling Mayo-Ban Palat Road in Mayo district on Saturday morning.
Surveillance camera footage from a video recording of the incident aired on several TV channels soon after.
Officials said the three suspects in custody were spotted on security cameras in various locations.
They were identified as Ismael Daong, 31, Rosuedee Jeurae, 28, and Mr Rosuedee’s younger brother Samael Jeurae, 25. All three are residents of Mayo’s tambon Rubo Yeurai, said Pisan Awae, Mayo district chief.
Mr Ismael was spotted before the attacks talking on a cell phone as he rode on a motorcycle past a hospital on his way out of Mayo district.
He allegedly monitored the army patrol unit and pointed them out to the militants, Mr Pisan said.
The Jeurae brothers were caught on CCTV cameras at the shooting scene while allegedly firing at the soldiers.
One of the brothers has a limp, which allowed authorities to easily identify the suspect, Mr Pisan said.
Mr Pisan has requested that more CCTV cameras be installed in the three troubled provinces in the deep South to help track down perpetrators quickly.
The suspects were sent to special force 25 office in Thung Yang Daeng district for further interrogation, said Pol Maj Gen Phichet Pitisethpan, the commissioner of Pattani Provincial Police.
Security checks on the way to Pattani municipality have been strengthened after the authority received tips that militants might attempt to plant two pickup trucks loaded with explosives in the municipality.
Police said three pickup trucks had been stolen from Songkhla’s Thepa district and Yala’s Muang district.
The militants had also killed an owner of one of the vehicles stolen from Yala.
Police suspect all three pickup trucks are still hidden in Pattani province.
Fourth Army Commander Lt Gen Udomchai Thamsarorat said military officers will be instructed to change their patrol strategy to prevent a repeat of the attack.
Army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha called the assault a barbaric act.
“The act was inhuman by any means and the public should condemn such attacks,” he said.
Gen Prayuth also called on people posting video clips of the southern violence on the internet to stop doing so as it served no purpose.
“Do they want the international community to get involved in this issue?” he asked.
The shootings also drew strong criticism from public organisations.
The Justice for Peace Foundation, chaired by human rights activist Angkhana Neelapaijit, said the public was rattled by the violence in the deep South.
The government should tackle the unrest as a matter of priority, and Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra should exert her leadership and deal with the problem personally, Ms Angkhana said.
The media should take precautions when publicising attack scenes as it could worsen the suffering of victim’s families and stoke resentment, Ms Angkhana said.
Meanwhile, violence in the deep South continued yesterday.
Yutthana Meechamnan, 19, was found shot dead near his motorcycle on Pasuay-Klong Hin Road of Pattani’s Mae Laen district, while Peerawat Pijkit, 24, was found killed in a rubber plantation nearby.
In the province’s Yarang district, Sakareeya Sasu, 45, was gunned down in a village of tambon Pitumudee.
In Yala’s Yaha district, Aleeya Jintra, 26, was shot dead in a rubber plantation in tambon Yaha.
In Muang Yala, Suhairee Badong, 33, was killed by a gunshot to his head while praying in a mosque.