World

One dead, dozens hurt in Thai blast

Town attacked is in southern region plagued by insurgency

Terror continues to grip Thailand as a car bomb exploded late on Tuesday in a nightlife district in the country's south. It killed one person and wounded more than 30.

The blast occurred outside a hotel in the beach town of Pattani, in the province of Pattani, a region where Muslim separatists have waged an insurgency that has left more than 6,000 people dead since 2004 .

Most embassies warn against travelling to Pattani because of the long-running conflict between the Buddhist-majority nation and shadowy Muslim rebels seeking greater autonomy, The Guardian reported.

A staff member at Pattani's local hospital said 32 people were injured, five of them critically.

They are all Thai nationals, said the worker, who did not want to be named.

Pictures of the incident showed fires on the road outside the hotel's shattered facade, with police picking through the rubble.

A nearby car was destroyed and karaoke bars, massage parlours and restaurants were also damaged.

Analysts said the militants were sending a message after coordinated bomb and arson attacks struck multiple resort towns in Thailand two weeks ago, leaving four dead and 37 injured.

Those attacks, for which no one has claimed responsibility, heightened concerns that Thailand's southern insurgency may have spread north after years of stalled peace talks. The country's junta has downplayed the theory, given the importance of tourism to the economy.

Security experts said the insurgents have a record of coordinated bomb attacks, which they usually do not claim.

The district hit by the car bomb is one of only a handful in the south that offers bars, a disco and prostitution, Mr Don Pathan, a security analyst based in the region, told AFP.

"It's the type of place that society around here frowns upon," he said.

"The southern rebels focus most of their attacks on security officers and symbols of the state, but they do occasionally strike nightlife venues."

The bomb was hidden inside a stolen hospital vehicle and detonated shortly after a smaller explosive at a nearby bar.

The first blast did not cause any injuries.

IN PLAIN SIGHT

"The car was parked in front of the hotel lobby for a few minutes after (the) first bomb went off and people were not suspicious because it was a hospital vehicle," said Colonel Pramote Prom-in, a southern army spokesman.

The so-called "double tap" tactic is often adopted by the insurgents and was used in many of the recent attacks.

However, Thai Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwan, ruled out any link between the earlier attacks and the bombs in Pattani.

"I am sure that the incident in Pattani last night has nothing to do with the seven provinces attacks," Mr Prawit told reporters without elaborating.

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