Fri, Aug 27, 2004 - Page 5 News List

Bomb kills one on eve of Thai PM's trip south

INSURGENCY Thaksin Shinawatra was bullish after hearing of the news, saying that he would not alter his schedule because of the deadly market blast

AFP , HAT YAI, THAILAND

A bomb ripped through a food market in Thailand's troubled Muslim south yesterday, killing one person and injuring at least 24 on the eve of a visit by Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, police and the military said.

Police and soldiers were among those injured in the blast in Narathiwat Province's Sukhirin district, which borders Malaysia. It was the deadliest since a pair of bombs killed two policemen in the region in January.

"The dead victim was Atachai Boon-in, age 45, the younger brother of a shop owner," said Lieutenant Colonel Amnuay Pongsawat, Sukhirin's deputy police commander.

Among the injured were seven Thai navy soldiers, including two in critical condition, and six police, two of whom are also critical. They were buying breakfast when the bomb went off at 7.30am.

Five students were also wounded as they lined up on the roadside in preparation for a parade.

Thaksin is set to begin a visit to the region today, where an Islamist separatist insurgency has left more than 280 people dead and hundreds more wounded this year.

"The bomb was tied to a motorcycle which was parked inside the Mamong market. We initially suspect it was the work of the insurgents who are conducting a campaign of unrest," Sukhirin police commander Colonel Suwit Choensiri said.

His deputy, Amnuay, said the bomb was likely triggered by a mobile phone, remains of which he said were found in the debris.

A second bomb exploded four hours later in front of a shop in Narathiwat's Yingo district but caused no casualties, police said.

Thaksin, speaking from the southern province of Krabi, refused to let the deadly attack deter him.

"There have been other bomb blasts even before my trip. Don't blow it out of proportion," he said.

"Everybody has been working hard and the bombs won't scare me off," said Thaksin, who was due late yesterday in this capital of southern Songkhla province.

Thaksin has been greeted by bombs before on his half dozen visits to the region this year, but none have exploded near his entourage or killed anybody.

Defense Minister Chettha Tha-najaro warned that residents and security personnel in the south faced trying times and urged them to avoid daily routines which could make them easy targets.

Deputy Prime Minister Chavalit Youngchaiyudh, who is in charge of national security, con-ceded the insurgents had shifted tactics in order to cause maximum damage and demoralize authorities.

"Today they have changed their method of attack because they want to create more losses instead of shooting individuals which would lead to retaliation," he said.

Southern Thailand has been rattled in the past week by a spate of bombings, including three which were attached to motorcycles and blew up outside hotels in Yala Province, injuring a dozen people.

The weekend attacks prompted authorities to launch new roadside checks on all motorcycles in the three southernmost provinces.

They also coincided with Sunday postings on a Thai separatist group's Web site.

These warned villagers to stay away from crowded areas such as airports or train stations, entertainment venues and police stations.

"Don't go and welcome important people of Siam [Thailand's former name], and we ask for your cooperation not to go out at night," the announcement by the outlawed Pattani United Liberation Organization said.

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