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Motorcycle Bomb Kills Three in Thailand's South

Motorcycle Bomb Kills Three in Thailand's South

Monday, 22 January, 2018 - 10:45
Military personnel and police officers inspect the site of a bomb attack at a market in the southern province of Yala, Thailand, January 22, 2018. REUTERS/Surapan Boonthanom

A motorcycle bomb exploded in a bustling market in Thailand’s southern Yala province on Monday, killing three people and wounding two dozen others, a spokesman for the Internal Security Operations Command (ISOC) said, the first such attack in the region in months.

“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.

A rebellion against Thai rule in the country's culturally distinct "Deep South" bordering Malaysia has left nearly 7,000 dead -- the majority civilians -- since 2004.

The death toll in 2017 from the insurgency was 235, the lowest in 13 years of conflict as peace talks edged forwards and the Thai junta boosted its security lockdown on the region.

But Monday's bomb in Yala town at a packed market popular with Buddhists and Muslims may indicate that militants are once more aiming attacks at civilian targets.

At least two bodies lay slumped over debris in the narrow alleyway, surrounded by chunks of torn corrugated roofing, destroyed motorbikes and market stalls.

Two of the dead were Buddhists -- the other was Muslim -- while 24 people were wounded, according to an official at Yala hospital.

An army spokesman for the region confirmed the toll and blamed "insurgents", saying the motorbike laden with explosives fits their modus operandi.

"The bombing shows the insurgents never stop trying to indiscriminately destroy lives and property," Pramote Prom-in said, adding the attack aimed to undermine faith in "the state security system."

Thailand, which colonized the ethnically Malay south roughly a century ago, has for decades been confronted by fighters seeking more autonomy, but the conflict flared up into its bloodiest phase in 2004.

Rights groups have accused both the insurgents and security forces of widespread human rights abuses, with civilians trapped between the two sides.

The shadowy network of militants almost never claim attacks and rarely talk to the media.

Their cells, which operate from remote communities and the forested Malaysia border zone, had in recent months stepped back from targeting civilians including teachers and other perceived collaborators with the Thai state.

Talks between the Thai state and an umbrella group claiming to represent the rebels have rumbled on inconclusively for years.

But the recent slackening of violence had been read as a sign of confidence building between the sides -- although the main rebel group the Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN) has disowned the discussions.

Last May a large car bomb struck a supermarket in neighboring Pattani province wounding scores of people.

Soldiers, police and local officials are frequent victims of ambushes and bombs, often dug deep under rural roads.

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