Fourth Army chief suspects business conflict behind Betong bus hijack

The Fourth Army commander says he believed business conflict might be the probable cause for the arson attack on a Betong-Bangkok bus in Yala’s Bannang Sata district on Sunday (Dec 17).

Speaking after inspecting the scene on Highway 410 Betong-Yala at Ban Kasod, Lt-Gen Piyawat Nakwanich, commander of the Fourth Army overseeing the southern region, said the attack might link to conflict in illegal business or business that involved the travel on this highway.

The Siam Travel Company’s bus left Betong district for destination in Bangkok was stopped by 10 armed men at Ban Kasod as it was travelling on Highway 410 on Sunday afternoon.

The assailants chased away all the passengers and set fire on the bus. All the passengers, the bus driver and the bus conductor were unharmed.

Lt-Gen Piyawat told INN News Agency today (Dec 18) initial investigation by the police found that the bus driver and the bus conductor used to encounter similar attack in 2014.

He noted that the driver seemed to intentionally parked the bus in front of a house by the roadside before the incident took place. However, he said, the driver remained frustrated and could not remember the sequence of the incident.

Lt Gen Piyawat said authorities are questioning local villagers and authorities in the area.

Security operation would be stepped up on this route during the New Year festival.

Meanwhile, Yala governor Anuchit Trakul requested bus service from Yala to Betong, the southernmost district of the country, to suspend temporarily for security reason.

He also summoned a meeting with district official, police and soldiers in Bannang Sata district to hunt down the assailants.

Following his request for cooperstion, bus terminal in Yala turned quiet on Monday morning (Dec 18) particularly on the route from Yala town to Betong.

But bus operators in other southern towns continued to operate as usual particularly passenger van service to Betong from Hat Yai.

Passengers still use van service to Betong this morning.

One van operator said all operators continue the service as usual as Highway 410 is the only convenient route to Betong.