Bomb blasts hit south Thailand market town Sungai Golok

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Sunday, November 20, 2005

Police in Thailand have reported two bomb explosions in the southern province of Narathiwat. Twelve people are reported to have been injured, including three police officers, a two-year-old boy, and a 58-year-old Malaysian tourist.

The two explosions came within a five minute interval around 6:00am local time (23:00 GMT). The target of the attack was a restaurant in a market town, Sungai Golok, which borders with Malaysia. Police Captain Teerapak Sengseng said that the first of the explosive devices was concealed in a fruit basket, and that as the blast was being investigated the second device exploded only metres away.

The ongoing violence which is believed to be the work of insurgents in the predominantly Muslim south of Thailand has resulted in over 1,000 deaths since January 2004, with the Associated Press putting the figure at over 1,100. The area remains under Martial law which was recently extended to some areas of neighbouring Songkla Province. The provinces, Yala, Pattani, and Narathiwat which were formerly the Malay Sultinate of Pattani are the only Muslim-majority part of the traditionally Buddhist country.

There have been some suggestions that residents of the southern provinces are not accorded the same opportunities as those in other parts of the country. Thailand's economic improvements from increases in tourism during recent years have not yielded any benefits to the troubled provinces. Public statements by the Thai Prime Minister, Thaksin Shiniwatra, have given the impression that areas which have not given support to his Thai Rak Thai political party will not be prioritised by his government; this impacts the south which returned opposition Democrats during elections earlier this year.

The almost daily violence in the provinces bordering Malaysia is expected to be among the subjects discussed at talks between former Malaysian Prime Minister, Dr. Mahathir bin Mohamad and Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shiniwatra. The former PM is expected to meet Mr Shiniwatra at his official residence in Ban Phitsanulok early next week.