World Bulletin / News Desk
An investigator in the coastal town of Pattani told Anadolu Agency on Wednesday, “the first bomb exploded at 10.50 p.m. (1550GMT) in the parking lot of the Southern hotel in Pattani.”
Pol. Lieut. Sirisak Wangkulam said, “25 minutes after, a bomb hidden in an ambulance pick-up truck stationed in front of the hotel exploded, causing serious damages to the hotel entrance and to restaurants, karaoke shops and massage parlors nearby.”
The explosion killed a 25-year-old man from northeast Ubon Ratchatani province who was working at the hotel restaurant.
Local police consider the car bomb to be the work of southern separatists, who have been waging a decades-old insurgency against the Thai central state.
Regular bomb attacks and drive-by shootings occur in the three majority Malay Muslim provinces of Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat, where more than 7,000 people have been killed since January 2004 when insurgency flared up.
Entertainment places such as karaoke shops, bars and massage parlors have often been targeted.
The bombings late Tuesday occurred less than two weeks after a series of deadly explosions shook upper regions of Thailand’s southern peninsula, located hundreds of kilometers north of Pattani, killing four and injuring more than 30 others.
Most analysts linked these explosions to the southern insurgency, but the junta ruling Thailand has been reluctant to follow suit, first pinning responsibility on its political opponents, and then acknowledging that southern rebels could have been hired to conduct the bombings on behalf of others.
On Monday, national police chief Gen. Chakthip Chaijinda announced that of 20 suspects implicated in the bombings, most hailed from the three majority Muslim provinces.
“Some of them are also wanted for security cases that had happened in the deep South,” he said during a press conference.
He refused, however, to say if the bombings were a sign of insurgents spreading unrest beyond their territory, saying that he “didn’t rule out any possible motive, at this stage”.
"We won't comment on the motive at this time as it could have been related to the referendum, the insurgency or they may be hired guns," he said.
The only arrest warrant so far in relation to the Aug. 11-12 bombings has been issued against Ahama Lengha, a resident of Narathiwat.
Lengha is accused of having place a bomb near Patong beach in the tourist island of Phuket on Aug. 12.
On Wednesday, Defense Minister Prawit Wongsuwon dismissed any connection between the late night bombings in Pattani and the Aug. 11-12 attacks.
Wongsuwon, who also serves as deputy prime minister, was quoted by the Bangkok Post as saying that police chief Chaijinda and military officers were being deployed to the south to investigate the latest incident.
At the Aug. 7 referendum, four days before the bombings, more than 61 percent of voters said "yes" to the military-sponsored constitution, especially in the predominantly Buddhist southern provinces affected by the bombings -- however, "no" votes, abstentions and spoiled ballots prevailed in the deep “Muslim south” affected by the decades-old insurgency.
Analysts said that the high rate of “no” votes in the deep South could be explained by the discontent of the Muslim population over a constitutional clause in the draft charter giving enhanced status to the Buddhist religion.