A motorcycle bomb exploded in a market in Thailand’s southern Yala province on Monday, killing three people and wounding 22, a spokesman for the Internal Security Operations Command (ISOC) said, the first such attack in the region in months.
The mostly Muslim provinces of Narathiwat, Pattani and Yala in Thailand’s far south are home to a long-running insurgency by ethnic Malay Muslims fighting for autonomy, in which more than 6,000 people have been killed since 2004.
“The criminals put a bomb in a motorcycle and placed it next to a market cart. The force of the explosion caused three people to lose their lives,” said ISOC spokesman Pramote Prom-in. The ISOC is a government security force that operates in the region.
No group claimed immediate responsibility for the attack on Monday, which took place at a morning market.
Police said the motorcycle was placed near a stall selling pork, which is strictly forbidden for Muslims under Islamic law.
It was not immediately clear whether the bomb was placed at the pork stall in a deliberate attempt to target Thai Buddhists.
The stall’s female owner and a male customer were among the three people killed, police said. The bomb blew off chunks of the market’s corrugated tin roof and wrecked nearby stalls.
The southern provinces have seen hundreds of attacks since 2004, many of them deadly, but there have been fewer violent incidents of late.
Analysts who monitor the conflict say violence from the insurgency fell to an historic low in 2017, despite the fact that talks aimed at bringing peace gained little traction.
Thailand’s military government has tried to revive talks with rebel groups initiated by the previous civilian government, but they have gone almost nowhere.
Resistance to Buddhist rule from Bangkok has existed for decades in the predominantly Muslim southern provinces, waning briefly in the 1990s before resurfacing violently in 2004.
Tourists warned about insurgency
By Simon Calder
“Terrorists are very likely to try to carry out attacks in Thailand,” the Foreign Office has long warned.
The travel advice continues: “There were explosions in Bangkok in April and May 2017, and there were multiple explosions and incidents in tourist areas across Thailand in August 2016.”
The latest attack in Yala in the far south of Thailand, which left three dead and 22 injured, must now be added to that list.
The bombing is the latest bloody twist in the Islamist insurgency in the far south of the country, where martial law still prevails.
The Foreign Office says: “Since 2004, there have been almost daily attacks in Thailand’s deep south, including arson, bombings and shootings.
“Targets have included civilians and members of the security forces, government offices, tourist hotels, discos, bars, shops, marketplaces, supermarkets, schools, transport infrastructure and trains.
“Over 7,000 people have been killed and several thousand more injured.”
Unsurprisingly, the Foreign Office warns against travel to the region, comprising the provinces of Pattani, Yala, Narathiwat and Songkhla.
The US State Department says “citizens are at risk of death or injury due to the possibility of indiscriminate attacks in public places” in those provinces, and notes: “US government employees must obtain special authorisation to travel to these provinces.”
The main rail and road link between Thailand and Malaysia passes just to the west of the area, and has a heavy security presence.
Australia’s official travel advice says: “Public order and security incidents, including terror attacks, continue to pose risks to travellers throughout Thailand.
“Exercise a high degree of caution in Thailand due to the possibility of civil unrest and the threat of terrorist attack, including in Bangkok and Phuket. Pay close attention to your personal security at all times.”
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