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29-10-04, 08:32 PM #1
Friday October 29, 7:54 PM
Two bombs explode in southern Thailand; one killed, 19 wounded
(AP) Two bombs exploded Friday near a tea shop in southern Thailand, killing a police officer and wounding 19 other people as violence continued unabated in the Muslim-majority region still seething over the deaths of 78 men in military custody.
Friday's blasts targeted security forces, accused by some in the south of corruption, criminal activities and discrimination against Muslims.
Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra's government has come under under severe criticism for its handling of the growing violence, with some fearing that predominantly Buddhist Thailand has a full-blown Islamic insurgency in the making.
The 78 Muslim detainees suffocated or were crushed to death Monday when security forces jammed them into military trucks _ along with more than 1,200 others _ after a protest turned violent in the southern province of Narathiwat. At least seven others died during the riot, apparently shot by security forces.
Thaksin offered apologies to Muslim leaders who came to his office Friday, presenting them with about 10 million baht (US$250,000; euro 192,000) for compensation to victims and to spend during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Families of the dead will each receive 10,000 baht (US$250; euro 192).
"The tragedy should not have occured. It was mishandled. It was a mistake and since we did the wrong thing I admit to the mistake," Thaksin told the leaders. "But one thing I want all of you to understand, that the government still cares and is concerned for the Muslim people and what happened has nothing do with religious discrimination."
The first explosion Friday took place as morning customers crowded tea shops. It was planted at the foot of tree in the provincial capital of Yala province, 1,200 kilometers (745 miles) south of Bangkok.
Eight people, including three police officers, were injured by the time bomb, said Yala's police chief, Maj. Gen. Parinya Khwanyuen.
About 40 minutes later, while a bomb squad was clearing the cordoned-off area, a second explosion injured 12 policemen, four of them critically, Parinya said. One those officers later died in hospital, police said.
The police chief said it was unclear whether the second bomb was triggered by a timer or a mobile telephone signal. Terrorists in southern Thailand have recently been using mobile telephones to set off explosives, police say.
In neighboring Narathiwat province, gunmen on two motorcycles shot and seriously wounded a Buddhist villager while he was driving his motorcyle to market Friday, police Lt. Kuma-an Sanya said.
The new attacks followed an explosion in Narathiwat Thursday night, which killed a Malaysian tourist and two Thai women. At least 20 people, including three Malaysian tourists, were injured in the blast at Sungai Kolok.
Sungai Kolok is known for prostitution and smuggling, and is a popular destination for male tourists from across the border in Malaysia.
No one claimed responsibility for any of the attacks, and no arrests had been made.
Three Muslim-majority provinces in southern Thailand have been hit by a surge of violence that officials attribute to Islamic separatists. More than 400 people have been killed since January.
Although Thaksin has expressed regret over the detainee deaths and has appointed a committee to investigate, he has insisted his security forces acted appropriately in quelling Monday's demonstration.
Thaksin and other officials have sought to blame the detainees' deaths in part on their weakness due to dawn-to-dusk fasting during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. But a government-employed forensic scientist said two or three of the detainees had broken necks.
Outraged Islamic leaders have warned that the deaths could ignite more sectarian violence.
Waedueramae Mamingchi, chairman of the Islamic Council of Pattani, said television footage of Monday's incident proved that Thai security forces treated Muslim youths as if they were "lower than animals."
"The anger and feeling of hate in the hearts of people, especially the youth, is hard to heal now," he told The Associated Press.
Foreign governments, including predominantly Muslim Malaysia, expressed concern about the unrest.
Former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad urged Thailand to consider granting autonomy to its southern Muslim provinces, comparing the insurgency there with the Palestinian problem.Help support the forums by making a donation today. Thank you.
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