Image: Thailand’s King Maha Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkun (R) returns the constitution after signing it to Thailand’s Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha at Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall in Bangkok, Thailand April 6, 2017. Thailand Royal Household Bureau/Handout via REUTERS
BANGKOK (Reuters) – Thai police on Friday reported 22 attacks, including at least five small bomb blasts, in Muslim-majority southern Thailand only hours after King Maha Vajiralongkorn signed a new constitution on Thursday as a step towards ending military rule.
There were no immediate reports of casualties in the attacks in the region where there has been a recent upsurge in a decades-old Muslim separatist insurgency. Parts of the region voted against the new constitution at a referendum last year.
“The incidents are to create disturbances. They want to destroy the government’s credibility and create fear among people,” said Pramote Prom-in, spokesman for local security forces.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility and security forces said they did not know who was to blame.
Thailand’s king signed a military-backed constitution into law on Thursday, an essential step towards an election the junta has promised will restore democracy after the 12th successful coup in little over 80 years.
The new constitution is the Southeast Asian country’s 20th since the end of absolute monarchy in 1932 and critics say it will still give the generals a powerful say over Thai politics for years, if not decades.
Voters in the most heavily Muslim parts of Thailand were among the few to reject the draft constitution in last year’s referendum.
Security forces said five bombs had exploded on electric poles, causing local power cuts, and there had been a number of tyre-burning incidents.
Details were not immediately available of all the attacks. A large number of co-ordinated attacks in the region is unusual.
A Malay Muslim separatist insurgency in the provinces of Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat has claimed more than 6,500 lives since it escalated in 2004, according to independent monitoring group Deep South Watch.
On Monday, police reported what they described as the biggest attack by insurgents in the south in years. They said about 30 insurgents had fired more than 500 shots into a police booth.
In February, the government of the Buddhist-majority country struck a deal with MARA Patani, a long-standing umbrella group that claims to speak for the insurgents, but other separatists rejected it.
(Reporting by Panarat Thepgumpanat and Patpicha Tanakasempipat; Writing by Matthew Tostevin; Editing by Michael Perry)
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