Two killed by car bomb blamed on separatists in southern Thailand

BANGKOK Fri Jul 25, 2014 8:50am EDT

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BANGKOK (Reuters) - A car bomb killed at least two people and injured 36 outside a hotel in southern Thailand on Friday, police said, the latest deadly attack in an area plagued by separatist violence for the past decade.

Thailand is predominantly Buddhist but parts of the south, in particular the three provinces of Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat, are majority Muslim and resistance to central government rule has existed there for decades.

Police said the bomb was left in a vehicle about 50 meters from a hotel in the town of Betong, which is popular with tourists from nearby Malaysia. At least one of the injured was Malaysian.

"This was the work of southern separatists, which often happens during Ramadan," district police chief Wasan Puangnoi told Reuters.

Violence often spikes during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadam. Last year, the authorities said an increase in attacks was a reaction to peace talks that had started a few months before but were shunned by some rebel groups.

Deep South Watch, a group that monitors the area, said on Thursday that 6,159 people had been killed and 14,329 injured in violence related to the low-level insurgency that flared up in 2004 after years of relative calm.

General Prayuth Chan-ocha, who heads the military government in power in Thailand since May, had warned security officials in the area to be vigilant during the remaining days of Ramadan, which ends in the next few days.

(Reporting By Panarat Thepgumpanat Kaweewit Kaewjinda; Editing by Alan Raybould and Robert Birsel)

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