Bomb blast injures 37 in Thailand’s troubled south


Yala (Thailand) : Suspected separatists detonated a bomb Tuesday morning planted on a stolen motorcycle parked near a popular morning market of the town, injuring 37 civilians, six of whom were in critical condition, the police said.

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The explosion occurred at 6.40 a.m. when the market was crowded with vendors and early-morning shoppers, said Yala Police Colonel Poomphet Phiphatphetpoom.

The remote controlled bomb was hidden inside a motorcycle reportedly stolen Monday, Poomphet said.

Tuesday’s blast followed a deadly attack Monday on a Thai patrol in nearby Narathiwat province that left eight soldiers dead.

The ambushed squad – a protection unit for teachers, who are frequent targets of separatist insurgents – was surprised by a group of insurgents in the Chanae district of Narathiwat province, Army spokesman Colonel Akara Thiprote said.

“This is a big loss for the army,” Akara said. “It is one of our worst days. We will do our utmost to hunt down the killers.”

The fighters who ambushed the patrol were likely to be living locally in the tight-knit Muslim communities in the area, making it tricky for security forces to identify them, he added.

“We really need some good intelligence to guide us,” Akara said. “These people will bury their guns and turn into ordinary villagers before we reach them. It is not easy.”

The patrol had been returning to base after escorting teachers to a government school. Teachers have been frequently targeted because the separatists consider them to be agents of a central government dominated by the country’s Buddhist majority.

Thailand’s deep South – comprising the three border provinces of Narathiwat, Pattani and Yala – has been in turmoil since January 2004 when Muslim militants raided an army arms depot in Narathiwat and stole more than 300 weapons, unleashing a military crackdown on the long-simmering separatist movement.

The region has seen a surge in violence ever since, with more than 2,600 people falling victim to clashes, shooting, bombings and beheadings.