No peace talks with militants: Thailand



No peace talks with militants: Thailand Bangkok: Thai government has ruled out peace talks with alleged Islamic militants in the country's restive south following last weekend's bomb attacks.

Holding dialogue with one Muslim insurgent group could prompt retaliatory attacks by others as a show of strength, Deputy Prime Minister Yutthasak Sasiprapa said.

"I want to insist that the government has no policy to get involved in peace talks," said Yutthasak, a military general who oversees national security.

Suspected Islamic militants had set off a series of car bombs on Saturday killing 15 people and wounding hundreds. In Yala town, twin blasts claimed 12 lives and wounded more than 100 while a car bomb at Lee Garden Hotel killed three people and injured more than 400.

The hotel, in the city of Hat Yai, bordering Malaysia, is popular among foreigners especially from Malaysia and Singapore.

The attacks marked an apparent escalation of a shadow insurgency, without any outright demands, claiming thousands of lives since 2004.

There have been near-daily bomb or gun attacks targeting both soldiers and civilians, Buddhists and Muslims.

Thailand's army chief General Prayut Chan-O-Cha said more than 3,000 Muslim militants were involved in the violence.

The insurgents are not thought to be part of a global jihad movement but are instead rebelling against a long history of perceived discrimination against ethnic-Malay Muslims by successive Thai governments, Bangkok Post said.

The governor of Songkhla province, where Hat Yai is located, yesterday offered a reward of 500,000 baht (USD 16,000) for information leading to the arrest of each of two suspects in the hotel blast filmed by security cameras.

Meanwhile, police today arrested one of the alleged suspects behind the weekend bomb blasts in Yala province.

Police named the suspect as Anuwat Tohjae, a 22-year-old villager, who was seen driving a car behind a pickup truck that had a 15kg bomb concealed in its gas cylinder.

Anuwat denied that he was involved in the fatal bombings, Bangkok Post said.

Sources quoted by the daily said the bombers of the Lee Garden Plaza Hotel, who were suspected of holding dual nationality, had visited the hotel and studied the area before carrying out the attack.

They were believed to have already fled to another country.

It was strongly believed the bombs were produced in Hat Yai, not transported from the deep South or any of the four districts of Songkhla that share a border with Malaysia, the source said.

The bomb was made from two 15kg cooking gas cylinders stuffed with explosives and ammonium nitrate, police said. Defence Minister Sukumpol Suwanatat yesterday refused to rule out the possibility of informal talks with insurgents.

PTI