Car bomb shakes Thailand's troubled Pattani province

A powerful car bomb exploded outside a popular hotel in Thailand's majority-Muslim province of Pattani, killing one person and injuring 15 others including a Thai senator, military sources said Sunday. ( dpa )

The bomb was detonated at 7:45 pm local time Saturday in a car parked 15 metres from the lobby of the CS Pattani Hotel, which is popular among visiting government officials, tourists and journalists.

A hotel security guard was killed in the blast which also damaged the lobby, shattered the hotel's windows and left 15 people injured including Thai Senator Anusart Suwanmongkol, owner of the hotel.

Three of the bomb victims were listed in critical condition. Anusart only suffered minor injuries.

"This is a big blow to security," said Akkara Thitroj, the southern region's army spokesman. "The CS Pattani is the region's most popular hotel among tourists and officials."

Two smaller bombs were detonated at 8:00 pm in the hotel's ground floor restroom, and another outside the coffee shop, but caused little damage and no injuries.

Meanwhile, at about 11:45 pm Saturday suspected separatists burned down a school in Saiburi district of Pattani, and detonated a bomb when security personnel arrived to douse the flame, killing one soldier and injuring another six, Akkara confirmed.

In nearby Yala province, a suspected insurgent blew himself up while trying to deliver a bomb in a car, he added.

They were the latest acts of violence to rock Thailand's deep South, comprising Narathiwat, Pattani and Yala provinces where an escalating separatist movement has claimed more than 2,700 lives over the past four years.

The three provinces, bordering Malaysia, comprised the independent Islamic sultanate of Pattani more than 200 years ago before it fell under Bangkok's rule.

More than 80 per cent of the three provinces' two million people are Muslims, making the region an anomaly in predominantly Buddhist Thailand.

A separatist struggle has simmered in the area for decades, but took a turn for the worse in January, 2004, when Muslim militants attacked an army depot and stole 300 war weapons, prompting a crackdown that further inflamed the local population against the government.

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