NARATHIWAT, Sept 6 — A four-year-old girl was among two people killed after a bomb hidden in a motorcycle was detonated outside a school in Thailand’s insurgency-plagued south, authorities said today.
The device, packed in the fuel tank of the parked motorcycle, struck as pupils and teachers filed into the school in Tak Bai district of Narathiwat province for the start of the day.
“Two people killed were including a kindergarten girl and one adult — who may be her father,” a policeman in Tak Bai told AFP, requesting anonymity.
A hospital worker confirmed the death toll, adding that 10 other adults were wounded in the blast, including civilians and four police officers.
Phone lines to the remote area were cut by security forces as rebels often use mobile signals to detonate bombs.
Insurgents in the kingdom’s so-called ‘Deep South’ frequently target schools and teachers as a symbol of Thai state power over the culturally distinct Muslim-majority region, which Thailand colonised more than a century ago.
More than 6,500 people — the majority civilian — have been killed by rebels and Thai security forces since 2004 in near-daily bombings and shootings in the southernmost provinces bordering Malaysia.
Police and military accompany teachers and children to and from schools in the most dangerous ‘red zones’ in the south.
Scores of teachers have been killed by rebels — some executed in front of pupils.
“The bomb is an attempt by militants to incite unrest and aimed to kill… indiscriminately as shown by the four-year-old victim,” Colonel Pramote Prom-in, spokesman for the Thai army in the south, said in social media statement.
The under-reported conflict in Thailand’s southermost provinces hit the headlines last month after rare bomb attacks in tourist hotspots inside the kingdom killed four people and wounded dozens, including foreigners.
Those attacks carried the hallmarks of the southern rebels.
But Thai authorities have so far been keen to downplay any possible expansion of the southern conflict — unrest that has so far remained highly localised for more than a decade.
That is despite the identification of five suspects for those attacks — all Muslim men from the deep south, several of whom have a record of involvement in the insurgency.
On Friday the Thai junta held talks with a group that claims to represent the political aims of the shadowy rebels.
The discussions are to set the ground for formal peace talks, which stalled following Thailand’s 2014 coup.
But it is unclear if the rebel representatives at the table have command-and-control over increasingly blood thirsty footsoldiers.
The military is also widely distrusted by Malay Muslims in the south.
Rights groups say years of abuses by security forces including extra-judicial killings, have eroded faith in the Thai state, which is also accused of railroading the local culture. — AFP