One person was killed and 18 others were wounded, some of them critically, when a bomb exploded outside a noodle shop in Thailand’s far south, police and witnesses said.
The explosion on Monday coincided with the anniversary of the death of dozens of local Muslims at the hands of Thai security forces, an event that sparked off the current insurgency more than a decade ago.
The bomb tore through a noodle shop at around 12:00 GMT in Pattani, a province in Thailand’s Malay-speaking Muslim south.
“One woman was killed, a Thai Buddhist and 18 were injured,” Yutthakarn Chitmanee, an officer at Muang Pattani police station, told AFP news agency.
An AFP photographer on the scene saw multiple casualties, some of them with what looked like life-threatening injuries.
The noodle shop was left a twisted wreck by the blast.
The attack also comes two months after a wave of coordinated bombings in tourist towns in Thailand’s south that killed four Thais and wounded dozens, including foreigners – attacks the police linked to Muslim armed groups.
The kingdom’s Muslim-majority “deep south”, an area bordering Malaysia, has seen near daily bombings and shootings since the most recent wave of rebellion erupted in 2004.
On October 25 of that year 85 Thai Muslims were killed, most of them suffocating in overcrowded lorries after protests were suppressed by the military.
More than 6,600 people – mostly civilians – have since died in a conflict that pits ethnic Malay armed groups seeking greater autonomy against security forces from Thailand’s Buddhist-majority state.
Late October often sees an increase in attacks to mark the anniversary of the start of the rebellion.
Thailand’s ruling junta says it has tried to restart peace talks with the Muslim militants since it took power in 2014.
But the negotiations have failed to gain traction, while attacks continue to strike across the region, although the attrition rate is down on previous years.
The rebels are widely believed to be behind an unprecedented string of bomb blasts on tourist towns outside their conflict zone in August, killing several people and wounding dozens, including foreigners.
Thai police say the perpetrators are from the south. But they have so far publicly denied a link to the southern insurgency, fearful of a backlash on the crucial tourist trade.
Both sides have been accused of human rights violations and targeting civilians.
No member of the Thai security forces has ever been jailed for extrajudicial killings or torture in the restive “deep south”.
Thailand has proposed building a wall along the 640km border to stop armed suspects using Malaysia as a base to plan operations and hide out between attacks.