Bangkok (The Nation/ANN) - Six people were killed and some 50 others injured yesterday when a bomb went off in the heart of the Pattani's Sai Buri district in south Thailand.
It was another attack in the escalating violence in the predominantly Muslim southern border region.
The dead victims comprised three women and three men, including a local defence volunteer.
A group of insurgents first lured security officials to the scene by spraying bullets into a gold shop at noon. Some 15 minutes later a bomb hidden in a pickup truck nearby was detonated after the group of security officials and local residents had come to observe the aftermath of the shooting, according to the district chief.
The bomb attack was clearly planned to inflict maximum harm on officials and local people, as seen in the use of the shooting to lure officials to the site where a bomb was hidden, said Sai Buri district chief Kraisorn Wisitwong.
Nineteen of the injured were in serious conditions, according to a public health official.
Some 50 kilogrammes of explosive substance was hidden in a stolen pickup truck parked opposite Kamonphan gold shop in the district. The bomb was ignited by a radio signal. The explosion also damaged at least 28 rooms of commercial buildings in the area, police said.
Police said insurgents wanted to maintain tension and fear in the restive South to continue the momentum of their struggle against state authority.
The bomb is the latest in a series of violent incidents in the region stretching back to early 2004. The unrest has claimed more than 5,000 lives, the majority of them in the three southernmost provinces of Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat.
Like its predecessors, the current government has failed to contain the violence and has not been able to find an effective solution to restore peace.
Yesterday's bomb, which sparked a fire that destroyed several shops, was meant as a warning to locals not to talk with security forces after nearly 100 suspected militants "surrendered" last week, according to Colonel Pramote Prom-in, an Army spokesman in the south.
"The perpetrators are the hardcore elements and do not want a peaceful solution [to the conflict] so they wanted to terrorise residents not to side with government," Pramote said. "But it will not affect the government's efforts."
Army chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha said yesterday that he believed the authorities have taken the right path in tackling the insurgency problem, although he did not think the violent attacks would end soon. "There are many groups in the [insurgency] movement," he said.
In response to an increase in violence over the summer, authorities said they had renewed peace talks with militant leaders.
"Don't call it negotiations... but there are talks to achieve peace, which is a crucial government policy," Yutthasak Sasiprapha, deputy prime minister in charge of national security, said in August.
But the attacks have continued. Analysts say the lattice of militant groups operating in the lush, forested three southernmost provinces are using increasingly sophisticated tactics to carry out co-ordinated assaults.
Dozens of members of the security forces have been killed in recent weeks in ambushes and roadside bombs, while civilians perceived to have collaborated with authorities are routinely executed.
A series of car bombs killed 14 people and injured more than 500 in April in the deadliest attacks to hit the insurgency-torn far south in recent years.