Further evidence of the mounting threat is found in a new trend demonstrating sophistication and organization in the use of coordinated attacks. On November 2, a series of blasts near electricity poles and a transformer substation detonated at intervals of 10 minutes for over an hour, and resulted in a total loss of power in Narathiwat town. In late October, a similar series of coordinated attacks targeted at least 43 security posts over the three provinces of Pattani, Narathiwat and Yala. In one spate over the night of October 26-27, militants carried out at least 20 attacks, mostly targeting the new civilian militias.
These parallel, regional attacks were made possible through the use of cell phone infrastructure (like Madrid). The attack on electricity infrastructure was particularly astute since it doubled the amount of leverage provided by infrastructure -- particularly since this electricity disruption resulted in a cascading failure that took down the entire system.Controlling Connectivity
To defeat the leverage provided by cell phones, the government responded by:
- Turning off cell phone service in the affected province during the November 2 attack on electrical infrastructure. This allowed the government the time necessary to defuse multiple unexploded bombs.
- Forcing pre-paid calling card phone users to register their phones in the affected provinces. This is in progress and affects nearly a half a million phones in area.
- Extending registration of pre-paid phones to the entire country. This will likely occur in the next year.
Here's how the conflict will evolve:
- Cloned phones. Thailand's global guerrillas will respond to these measures by cloning stolen phones.
- Simultaneous attacks. By reducing the time between explosions, the ability of the government to respond by turning off service will be partially nullified.
- Going strategic. The simplicity of these attacks, particularly against electricity infrastructure, make it possible to easily export them to strategic targets. We should view the attack on Narathiwat as a demonstration of evolving capability rather than an end point. The most likely future application of these techniques is against Bangkok or other major cities where the leverage would be much, much higher. In these strategic cases, turning off cell phone service will amplify the disruption.