VI. Attacks on Infrastructure

Infrastructure in the southern border provinces—including railways, power lines, and the mobile telephone network—have frequently been targeted by separatist militants, causing serious disruption in people’s daily life. On January 18, 2006, for example, 92 mobile telephone stations in Pattani, Yala, Narathiwat, and Songkhla were burned down almost simultaneously. Entire districts in Yala and Pattani were left in the dark almost every time separatist militants bombed power stations and the electricity grid.      

Saroj (not his real name) said the outage of electricity or mobile telephone signals has made him feel more vulnerable.

Without a mobile telephone signal, how can we call for help? And when there is no power. The worst day in my life was on July 14, 2005. They [separatist militants] bombed the power grid causing blackout in the entire Muang district [of Yala]. We were left in the dark. Here and there there were gun shots and explosions after the blackout. That was really scary when you cannot see what is going to happen to you. Electricity outage has become the weak spot of people in Yala. We locked ourselves inside [the house] fearing that they [separatist militants] will come in the dark and shoot us. Soldiers and police cannot do much without electricity. The town is paralyzed and ridden with fear. My friend in Pattani told me that Muslim teenagers went wild after a bomb attack at the power station [on February 18, 2007]. In the dark, he said there were hundreds of Muslim teenagers on the road, riding motorcycles, and shouting ‘Alahu akbar!’ It went on for almost an hour.137   

Passenger trains and the railway network have been attacked by separatist militants since 2004. They have bombed train stations, shot at the trains, and sabotaged the tracks. These attacks have brought train services in the southern border provinces to standstill. For example, 14 passengers were injured after the train from Yala to Nakhon Sri Thamarat was derailed in Pattani’s Kok Po district on June 4, 2007. On that day, rail tracks in Yala and Narathiwat was also destroyed. For four days after the attacks, all 18 trains to the southern border provinces were suspended.

According to Adi Ahama, a train commuter who travels regularly from Yala to Narathiwat:

Pejuang shot at passing trains, or they bombed the railway, or derailed the trains. The government is trying hard to make train journey safe by sending troops to ride with passengers on the trains. Also there are troops patrolling on foot to inspect the railway network. But often those troops came under attack themselves. I am scared that one day I will be killed or injured when my train is ambushed. But I have to go to work. I cannot afford to take a bus or minivan to travel from here [Yala] to Narathiwat. This is the cheapest transport for me and many people. Our lives were really difficult when train service was stopped. We were cut off from the outside world. Many people could not go to work or study.138         

137 Human Rights Watch interview with Saroj, Yala, August 1, 2007.

138 Human Rights Watch interview with Adi Ahama, Yala, June 8, 2007.