Seven dead, dozen injured in southern Thailand attacks

Thai firefighters spray water on burning buildings following a bomb blast attack by suspected separatist militants in Sungai Kolok, in Thailand's restive southern province of Narathiwat.
Thai firefighters spray water on burning buildings following a bomb blast attack by suspected separatist militants in Sungai Kolok, in Thailand's restive southern province of Narathiwat. PHOTO: AFP

BANGKOK (AFP) - Three people were killed and a dozen injured in four separate bomb blasts in Thailand's war-torn deep south, police said on Saturday, while another four died from shooting and arson attacks.

More than 6,300 people have been killed in near-daily conflict pitting troops and police against rebels seeking greater autonomy for the three Muslim-majority provinces bordering Malaysia since 2004.

In the latest spate of attacks, three people died on Friday evening when a motorcycle bomb exploded outside a karaoke bar in southern Songkhla province's Sadao district, which borders the conflict-hit region and is frequently swept up in the unrest.

"Three were killed in the blast and four injured," Major General Puthichart Ekachant, the deputy police commander for the southern region, told AFP.

Southernmost Narathiwat province saw three bomb blasts Friday, including at a karaoke bar in Sugnai Kolok district that wounded eight people shortly before the motorcycle bomb went off, according to a statement by Thailand's southern regional police.

Shortly after midnight an arson attack on shops in the same district left three more people dead, police said, while in a nearby area a 35-year-old Muslim man was shot dead by an unknown number of gunmen who fled the scene.

It was not immediately clear if the attacks were coordinated but they come during the holy Muslim fasting month of Ramadan when the south often experiences an upswing in violence.

Thailand, a mainly Buddhist nation, annexed the southern region more than 100 years ago and stands accused of perpetrating severe rights abuses as well as stifling the distinctive local culture through clumsy, and often forced, assimilation schemes.

The majority of casualties from more the than decade of conflict have been civilians with both Buddhists and Muslims falling victim to shadowy insurgents who target security forces, citizens and perceived representatives of state authority.

Security forces also stand accused of killing civilians in raids on suspected militant hideouts and rights groups have long urged an end to a "culture of impunity" among officials.

Thailand's junta, which took over in a coup in May 2014, has vowed to reboot a stalled peace process with several rebel groups operating in the deep south but so far there has been little progress.