Police officer killed, at least 18 injured in south Thailand blasts

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

A police sergeant was killed and at least 18 people were injured in a pair of bomb blasts today in southern Thailand.

Taking place in Yala, the capital of one of Thailand's three southernmost provinces, the first blast, at around 8 a.m. local time (0100 GMT), resulted in no injuries, but drew police and journalists to the scene. Then, about 30 minutes after the initial blast, a second, more powerful bomb went off.

The explosion tore through shops and a motorcycle taxi stand at a major intersection across the street from the city's railway station.

Police Sergeant Subin Pruekmongkol, 48, who lost his arms and legs in the blast, was taken to Yala Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

At least eight other police officers were wounded, two of them seriously, while four local journalists were also taken to hospital. The injury tolls varied widely, with local news reports saying at least 18 people were injured, while CNN reported that up to 32 people had been hurt.

Police said the first bomb was hidden inside a motorcycle helmet and placed in the front basket of a motorbike. The second blast was set off remotely after people had flocked to the blast site. This tactic of using a smaller bomb as a lure, followed by a second stronger bomb, has become more common in the south Thailand insurgency. Since attacks by separatists in Thailand's Malay Muslim-majority provinces flared up in January 2004, there are have about 2,000 people killed in bombings and almost-daily drive-by shootings.

In a separate violence earlier today in Yala Province, a man was fatally shot in front of a tea shop in Yaha District.

In Bangkok, the central government's Cabinet agreed to extend an emergency law in the southern provinces for another three months. The current round expires on Friday. The emergency powers, which are set for three-month periods, were first enacted in 2005. Among other powers, the decree allows officials the authority to detain suspects for up to 30 days without charge. About 350 suspects have been rounded up and detained under the law in the past few weeks, according to The Nation newspaper.