Thai market explosion kills four

Attack in Songkhla province comes after six co-ordinated blasts a day earlier.

    Police said the bomb at the market in southern Thailand was fixed to a motorcycle [Reuters]
    "The bomb was done by the southern insurgents who are trying to discredit officials, implying that they were unable to protect people," Colonel Acar Tiproch told the AFP news agency.
    "They are aiming to use this as a catalyst for confrontation between security officers and people in the south," he added.

    Co-ordinated blasts

    The attack came as police began investigating a six apparently co-ordinated bombings that wounded 13 people in the tourist resort of Hat Yai late, elsewhere in Songkhla province, late on Sunday.

    Hotels, pharmacies, a department store and
    a restaurant were hit in Hat Yai [Reuters]

    Officials have been reluctant to link those blasts to the separatists, who are fighting for a separate state in the Muslim-majority region bordering Malaysia.

    "We have to investigate first," Lieutenant General Jetanakorn Napeephat, chief of police in lower southern Thailand, said. "We are starting by checking the CCTV in town."

    Thailand's Muslim-dominated southern provinces of Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat have been wracked by violence since an uprising in early 2004 over complaints of rights abuses by soldiers and discrimination by the country's Buddhist majority.
    In September last year, six bombs exploded in Hat Yai, killing four people, including the first Westerner to die in the violence.
    Major-General Paithoon Choochaiya, police chief of Songkhla province, said on Sunday that the placing of the bombs may have been related to national politics.
    "So far we cannot rule out that the attack was linked to insurgents in the three southern provinces, but it is mostly likely linked to a political motive," he said without elaborating.
    Court ruling

    The blasts occured as Thailand prepares for a court ruling on whether the Thai Rak Thai party of Thaksin Shinawatra, the ousted prime minister, and the opposition Democrat party should be banned for alleged violations during elections last year.

    If the nine-member constitutional tribunal decides on a ban on Wednesday the parties' leaders would be prevented from taking part in politics for up to five years.
    Surayud Chulanont, the military-installed prime minister installed by the military after a coup in September, shortened a trip to China to be ready to handle the outcome of the verdicts.
    "There will be people who are unhappy with the verdicts and will protest on the street, but I don't think there will be hundreds of thousands," he said.
    Analysts say banning all 170 members of the executive committees of Thai Rak Thai and the Democrats would create a vacuum in Thai politics, removing scores of the country's leading politicians.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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