Southern bombs disturb mourning 

Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn. Source: Wikimedia

Bomb-and-gun attacks in Thailand’s unstable southern region have left at least three people dead, as the kingdom mourns the death of King Bhumibol Adulyadej and prepares for the coronation of his son, Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn.

The insurgency by Muslim separatists in the three southern provinces since 2004 has resulted in around 7,000 fatalities.

“The years-long conflict in the southern border provinces, never mind the group responsible for the violence, has never attacked the institution [of the monarchy],” said Panitan Wattanayagorn, a scholar at Chulalongkorn University and adviser to government leaders in charge of national security. “Nothing indicates that stance will change.”

An army officer was among those killed in the attacks, which also injured at least three people, said southern military spokesman Colonel Pramote Prom-in. Security chiefs were meeting to discuss the matter, he added.

The Thai junta declared one year’s mourning following Bhumibol’s death on October 13 and has discouraged festivities for 30 days.

But violence continues in the south, with the latest attacks the largest since August, which killed four people and injured a dozen in tourist attractions, leading to fears that the insurgency was spreading beyond the three troubled provinces on the Malaysian border.

The junta has also increased prosecutions of anyone alleged to have insulted the monarchy.

The authorities are calling on social media providers to censor royal remarks, critics of the monarchy while trying to extradite anyone overseas accused of defaming the monarchy ahead of the expected coronation next month of Vajiralongkorn.

The lèse-majesté laws for offending the royal family carry jail sentences of up to 15 years per offence.

At least 25 people had been investigated under lèse-majesté since the king’s death, the junta said, adding to numerous existing cases.

There are pockets of resistance. An editorial in The Nation condemned the crackdown as likely to provoke “mockery” from the international community “looking on with sympathy over our loss”. “The military-led government’s insistence on hunting down fugitives suspected of lèse-majesté will bring nothing good for the kingdom, but seems more likely, in fact, to damage the monarchy,” the English-language paper said.

Tech giants like Google and Line, the leading chat app in Thailand, have been allegedly been pressured into monitoring references to the royals content.

Google said it was applying its global policy of blocking material in specific territories if a “thorough review” supported official allegations that postings were illegal under national law. Line was unavailable for comment.