Mon, Mar 28, 2005 - Page 5 News List

Fifteen people injured in bomb attacks, shootings

FRESH VIOLENCE Thai authorities say insurgents were to blame for the latest bomb attack on a railway station in the nation's Muslim south


At least 15 railway workers, soldiers and police were injured in two bomb blasts and an hour-long gun battle in Thailand's restive south early yesterday, in an attack which police blamed on Islamic insurgents.

Two bombs exploded around 6:15am, 30m from the Sungai Padi railway station in Narathiwat province, as a maintenance train car was travelling from Sungai Kolok to Tanyong, police and railway officials said.

A third bomb exploded outside a bank in the same district at almost the same time but no one was injured.

After the blasts, groups of gunmen hidden near the railway tracks opened fire on the train.

Soldiers and police returned fire and the ensuing shootout lasted for an hour before the attackers managed to escape, railway officials said.

At least 10 railway workers and several soldiers and police on the train were injured. Five of them were seriously wounded and taken to a nearby hospital.

The bombs also damaged the railway and forced authorities to suspend service.

"The bombs were targeting government officials as it was part of the unrest," said one police officer.

On Saturday a Buddhist worker was shot dead and two other people, including a state railway worker, were injured in two attacks in Narathiwat and Yala provinces.

Both those attacks were also blamed on the Islamic insurgency that has rocked Thailand's three southernmost Muslim-majority provinces of Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat.

Parliament is due to hold its first joint session in over a decade, starting tomorrow, to debate the insurgency.

The request was made in February after Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra strongly rebuked critics for their vociferous objections to policies he announced for the region, including a plan to divide villages into zones and to block state funds to those deemed supportive of Islamic separatists.

Thaksin has since stepped away from the plan amid widespread condemnation, including from within his own government.

The last joint session of the 500-seat lower House of Representatives and the 200-member Senate was in May 1992, in the midst of bloody pro-democracy demonstrations that shook Thailand to its foundations.

At least 630 people have been killed in the mainly Buddhist kingdom's Muslim-majority south near the Malaysian border since the Islamic separatist insurgency erupted in January 2004.

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