Bomb-making techniques getting better in Thai South

Thai security personnel inspect the site of a motorcycle bomb attack.

THAILAND- With 2,889 bombing attacks in the deep South over the past decade, the authorities have noticed a change in the bomb-making techniques, which is believed to carried out by less than 40 individuals.

Bomb attacks claimed many lives last year, including those of six explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) officials, including Pol Sub-Lieutenant Chaen Varongkapaisit, deputy chief of the Narathiwat EOD Unit. This has made many people wonder whether the insurgents' bomb-making skills had evolved and become better, resulting in the deaths of EOD officials and new armoured trucks being blown up.

Pol Colonel Kritapas Kreunetr, chief of the Anothai special force's EOD unit, said the first phase of the unrest in the South had seen bombs copied from those used by insurgents in other countries, hence the bombs had similar circuit panels, with a watch or cellphone being as a detonator. Then they evolved into combining more circuits together, possibly a result from a trial-and-error approach over the years. Plus, the new generation of bomb makers also had some knowledge in electronic circuitry.

"One of techniques discovered recently was the use of a cellphone to set the detonation time, instead of using it to detonate the bomb through a phone call. With the new technique, the cellphone no longer needs a SIM card, so the police cannot trace the phone back to the culprit," he said.

The highest amount of busting charge was recorded in a 90-kilogram two cooking-gas cylinder bomb attack against an armoured truck in Pattani's Panare district on September 10.

In the case of Pol Sub-Lieutenant Chaen and the other two bomb experts who were killed on October 28, Kritapas said it involved three bombs with a circuit set to detonate the three bombs at the same time with a "moving trap".

A similar bomb was used on an earlier attack at a roadside pavilion in Narathiwat's Tak Bai district, but was successfully defused, he said.

Previously, EOD officials worked on defusing bombs to use the remains in evidence to arrest suspects later, but since the deaths, they have started destroying the bombs instead.

"This new approach still leaves us with evidence although it is |not intact and takes us longer to collect," he said, adding that officers' |safety was the biggest priority.

Field officials have also been using the LINE chat app to send photographs of bombs to brainstorm with colleagues to analyse and assess the situation for better safety, he added.

Kritapas said the bomb-makers also had their own signature, hence investigators believe that there are less than 40 of them in the region, adding that this group had also shrunk in number as state officials had made many arrests. He also emphasised that Thai EOD officials were as effective as those in other countries, and a recent co-training system saw a local team win a contest in the "Hook and Line" category of using material modification to defuse bombs. Thai officials are also considered experts in defusing motorcycle bombs - something EOD officials from other countries also want to learn.