NARATHIWAT (Thailand) • A four-year-old girl and her father were among three people killed yesterday when a bomb hidden in a motorcycle's fuel tank exploded outside a school in Thailand's insurgency-plagued south.
The device went off as students and teachers filed into the school in the Tak Bai district of Narathiwat province at the start of the day.
The father and daughter died when the bomb was set off by radio control as they were approaching the school gate, local police detective Noppdol Kingthong told Agence France-Presse.
A 23-year-old man later died in hospital and around a dozen other adults were being treated for injuries, according to a hospital worker who said the dead were all Muslims.
United Nations Children's Fund Thailand representative Thomas Davin said the agency was "shocked and saddened" by the bombing.
The police and soldiers routinely accompany teachers and children to and from schools in the region's most dangerous "red zones". Dozens of teachers have been killed by rebels, some in front of students.
The rebels appear to have returned to attacking "soft" civilian targets in recent weeks, following several months in which violence was aimed at security officials.
The bomb "aimed to kill... indiscriminately as shown by the four-year-old victim", Colonel Pramote Prom-in, spokesman for the Thai army in the south, said.
Ethnic Malay insurgents in the kingdom's so-called "deep south" have for years targeted schools and teachers, which are seen as symbols of Thai state power in the culturally distinct Muslim-majority region.
The under-reported conflict in the southernmost provinces hit the headlines last month after rare bomb attacks in tourist hot spots inside the kingdom killed four people and wounded dozens, including foreigners. Those blasts carried the hallmarks of the insurgents, who never claim their attacks.
But the Thai authorities have played down any possible expansion of the southern conflict, which has remained highly localised for more than a decade. That is despite the identification of five suspects for the tourist attacks - all Muslim men from the south, several of whom have a record of involvement in the insurgency.
More than 6,500 people - the majority of them civilians - have been killed in the conflict in the south since 2004.
AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE