Insurgents staged 102 violent incidents, including five bomb attacks that wounded six security officials, in the deep South yesterday, timing them to coincide with Malaysia's independence day for symbolic effect, the commander of the Fourth Army Area based in Pattani said yesterday.
Lt-General Udomchai Thammasarojrat said the widely reported recent killing of four soldiers was intended to send a message to the international community that Thai authorities had lost control of the deep South, while signalling that the overall separatist battle was nearly won.
The insurgents intended the incidents to incite hatred between Thai and ethnic Malay people while painting a bad image of Thailand in the eyes of its neighbours and generally promoting their cause, he said.
On behalf of the Fourth Army Area and residents of southern Thailand, Udomchai congratulated Malaysia on the 55th anniversary of its independence.
The national day is known as Merdeka Day.
By displaying a Malaysian national flag at the site of every incident yesterday, the insurgents were attempting to disrupt Thailand's good relations with Malaysia, the general said.
This a common psychological ploy used by the rebels to foment bilateral conflict and undermine good relations, he said. They want to send a signal that they have a large armed militia when in fact their numbers are small, he said.
There were five separate bomb attacks in Narathiwat yesterday, injuring six security officials - three Marines and three Army rangers - said spokesman Colonel Pramote Phrom-in.
A large number of Malaysian national flags were placed at many sites in Songkhla, several bomb hoaxes were staged and Thai national flags were burned, among many similar incidents in Narathiwat, Pattani and Yala, officials said.
Of the 102 incidents, 34 occurred in Yala, 44 in Narathiwat, 12 in Pattani and 12 in Songkhla.
August 31 also marks the day that the Malay separatist organisation Bersatu, or MPRMP (Council of the Muslim People of Pattani), was founded in 1989.
The spokesman said the insurgents sought to create violence and chaos to undermine the launch of the Asean Economic Community in 2015.
Under the AEC, people across Southeast Asia, including those in the deep South, anticipate an era of greater prosperity and high economic growth, which should see people turn their backs on separatism and end their support for the insurgents, Pramote said.
A security source said the use of Malaysian national flags at the site of 102 incidents was a big issue, despite no fatalities occurring. "Producing flags in 102 incidents is not an easy thing to do; it was done to show [the insurgents'] potential, and led to the incidents being reported in international news coverage," the source added.
"This could lead to the insurgents' signalling that their separatist struggle is nearly won. Many of the flags were flown at schools, replacing Thai national flags that were taken down and burned," the source said.