(AFP) – Nov 4, 2008
NARATHIWAT, Thailand (AFP) — One person was killed and 70 injured Tuesday when twin bombs ripped through a market and tea shop near a local government office in Thailand's insurgency-hit south, police said.
Officials said the attack was one of the biggest assaults on civilians during the bloody separatist rebellion that has been raging for nearly five years in the three southern Muslim-majority provinces.
"It is the biggest attack so far in terms of number of injuries," southern military spokesman Colonel Parinya Chaidilok told AFP. Seventy people were wounded, he said, including five with serious injuries.
Lieutenant General Surachai Suebsuk, Narathiwat police commander, said that one of five people seriously hurt -- a woman who was an elected community representative -- died later in hospital.
A car bomb exploded just before midday at a fruit market opposite a district office where 100 village heads were meeting in Narathiwat province, police said, and moments later another blast hit outside a nearby tea shop.
"The bombs show that the wrongdoers want to attack places where there are many people," Thai Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat told reporters.
"The wrongdoers want to make trouble and keep the unrest going," he added.
Surachai had earlier said that three blasts hit in Sukhirin district, close to the Malaysian border, but investigations later in the day showed there were two bombs, he told AFP.
Forensic police said about 30 kilograms (65 pounds) of explosives had been packed into the car which was left in the fruit market parking lot and detonated by mobile phone.
The second blast occurred when about five kilograms of explosives concealed in a motorcycle were detonated, also by mobile phone.
Thai television showed images of charred and overturned cars at the scene.
"Like every attack, no one or no group has claimed responsibility," said Parinya, but added that the attack was linked to the insurgency.
Thailand's army chief Anupong Paojinda said he was looking into whether there were any security lapses.
"I have stressed my order to examine security measures. Parked cars are banned in community and public areas (in the south). I don't know why in this case they let the car park there," he told reporters.
In separate incidents in the restive region, a 47-year-old religious teacher was shot dead in Narathiwat province on Monday night, while a 41-year-old man was killed later in a similar attack in nearby Pattani province, police said.
Tuesday's bombs come a week after Somchai visited the far south and told reporters that the insurgency appeared to have eased.
More than 3,400 people have been killed in rebel attacks by shadowy insurgent groups operating in the region since January 2004 and successive governments have struggled to quell the unrest.
The three far southern provinces were an ethnic Malay sultanate until mainly Buddhist Thailand annexed the region in 1902, provoking decades of tensions.
There are small bomb attacks almost every week in the south, but they usually target police and soldiers and only injure a handful of people.
In the last major bomb attack, four people were killed and 49 injured in February 2007 in Yala when a series of coordinated explosions ripped through the province.
Independent monitoring group Deep South Watch reported 18 deaths in the south during the first two weeks of October and said this was the lowest number of fatalities in that time period in four years.
But a day after Somchai's October 28 visit to Pattani and Narathiwat, a bomb blast wounded nine people including three soldiers in nearby Yala province.
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