Blast rattles Thai south after peace talk

2013-03-01 09:31
Members of a Thai bomb squad inspect the site of a motorcycle bomb blast triggered by suspected separatist militants in front of a market in Thailand's restive southern province of Narathiwat. (Madaree Tohlala, AFP)

Members of a Thai bomb squad inspect the site of a motorcycle bomb blast triggered by suspected separatist militants in front of a market in Thailand's restive southern province of Narathiwat. (Madaree Tohlala, AFP)

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Narathiwat - Six people were injured in a bomb blast in the restive Thai south on Friday, police said, as unrest continued barely a day after Thailand signed a peace talk deal with one of several rebel groups.

The device, hidden in a motorcycle, was detonated outside a busy morning market in the provincial town of Narathiwat, police said, adding that the explosion was within an area deemed to be a "safe zone", with a high security presence.

It came a day after the Thai government agreed to hold talks with Barisan Revolusi Nasional, part of a web of shadowy insurgent groups in the Muslim-majority south where a bloody uprising has claimed more than 5 500 lives since 2004.

Local police suggested Friday's blast could be the work of a rival group responding with violence to the news of the BRN discussions.

"We are convinced that this incident was the work of militants wanting to show their power and to discredit the government," Somchai Panomuppakarn, deputy chief investigator of Narathiwat city police, told AFP.

Daily shootings and bombings

But Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra dismissed the suggestions, saying a reduction in attacks would take time.

"These bombings are usual, it was not in retaliation against the government. The signing yesterday does not mean that the violence will stop immediately," she told reporters.

A 66-year-old man was in a critical condition with shrapnel wounds and facial burns following Friday's blast, which also injured four women and a soldier.

A stubborn insurgency seeking greater autonomy has raged across several provinces in the south of Thailand bordering Malaysia for nine years - with near-daily shootings and bombings.

Malaysian premier Najib Razak on Thursday said his country would host the Thai talks in Kuala Lumpur in two weeks, following discussions with Yingluck who was in the country for annual bilateral meetings.

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