Blast destroys Thai gas factory

THAILAND - Police believe it was an insurgent attack in revenge for the recent extrajudicial killings of insurgent leaders.

Two blasts occurred - one soon after the other - at the factory of Nara Petroleum Partnership on Petkasem Road, leading from Pattani to Narathiwat. Worawut Prompet, the factory's managing director, called firefighters to put out a blaze that engulfed eight-tonne LPG cylinders located inside the factory.

The fire raged for one hour before firefighters were able to bring it under control. It destroyed all gas cylinders stored in the main factory building as well as the building where cylinders were filled with gas. A pick-up truck used to deliver gas to customers was also destroyed in the fire. More than 10 houses opposite the factory were damaged in the explosions.

Among those injured was Arunee Jehma, 33, who suffered head wounds from the flying debris. She was sleeping when the explosions occurred.

Another casualty, Pa-ob Damnuin, 57, received leg wounds from flying glass, while Paiji Wongthornpitak, 38, also suffered similar injuries.

Police said the bombers planted two homemade devices, weighing 5 kilograms each, under the base of some gas cylinders. The bombs were detonated by mobile phones, resulting in powerful explosions. The second bomb is thought to have been detonated about ten minutes after the first.

The bombers also turned on gas valves, allowing gas to escape, but the factory's safety system shut down the flow of gas from the cylinders to the building used to fill them.

Police Sub-Lt Chaen Paisit, deputy chief of the bomb squad team said the bombers planted the two bombs and wrapped the gas pipe leading from the gas tank around the two explosive devices. A third explosion followed the two main detonations due to exploding gas cylinders.

Security officials led by Narathiwat Provincial Police chief Pol Major Wichai Kasemwong have been instructed to step up security in key areas of the province, including convenience stores.

Chaen said police suspected the explosions were carried out as revenge after two insurgent leaders were summarily executed on Friday morning in Narathiwat's Rue Soh district.

Chaen said the factory did not install any security cameras, but police found a backpack left by the bombers, filled with documents linking the blasts with members of the Runda Kumpulan Kecil (RKK) insurgent group based in Narathiwat's Muang and Bajoh districts.

Police said Harong Doloh, the factory's security guard, would undergo further interrogation after he gave a statement to police saying the bombers had tied him up before bombing the factory and then untied him before fleeing.

Colonel Pramot Prom-in, spokesman for the forward base of the Internal Security Operations Command's Region 4, said six insurgents were responsible for the explosions. They had clear intentions to do harm and cause severe damage to assets and property. He called on all sectors to condemn the group. He said state officials would visit the scene and provide assistance and rehabilitation to those people affected.

Meanwhile, Pramot said that with footage from a security camera, police would soon be able to issue arrest warrants for suspects believed to be responsible for shooting dead Imam Yakob Raimanee of the Central Masjid in Pattani.