Thai journalist dies from bomb blast injuries

New York, September 26, 2011The Thai government must bring to justice the perpetrators of the September 16 bomb attacks that killed a journalist and five other people in the country’s insurgency-plagued southern region, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. 

Phamon Phonphanit, 61, a reporter with the local newspaper Sue Samut Atyakam, died Saturday at Yala Central Hospital from severe burns he suffered while covering a series of bomb blasts in Sungai Kolok town, Narathiwat province, according to local news reports. More than 100 people were injured by three car and motorcycle bomb explosions detonated at 20-minute intervals, news reports said. A fourth bomb was found and defused by authorities, according to the reports. 

“There is a growing record of terroristic attacks in southern Thailand,” said Bob Dietz, CPJ’s Asia program coordinator. “Journalists are highly vulnerable in these circumstances, and we urge media organizations to prepare their staffs with training and equipment.” 

Police have detained two suspects whom authorities said were identified by surveillance camera footage. Local police said they planned to seek arrest warrants for additional suspects believed to be involved in the attacks, according to the reports.

More than 4,800 people have been killed in Thailand’s southernmost provinces since Muslim insurgents started launching attacks in January 2004. Chalee Boonsawat, a reporter with Thai Rath, the country’s largest Thai-language newspaper, was killed on August 21, 2008, while covering another series of timed explosions in Sungai Kolok town. To date, no one has been arrested or prosecuted for his death.