2 bombs explode outside Thai govt office in Yala, wounding 18

Thai crime scene investigators inspect the site of a bomb explosion in Yala, southern Thailand. (AP Photo)

BANGKOK: Two bombs exploded in front of a government office in Thailand’s insurgency-hit southern Yala province on Tuesday, wounding 18 people, a security official said.

The explosions took place in front of the Southern Border Provinces Administrative Center (SBPAC), a Thai government body that oversees the administration of three mostly Malay-Muslim majority provinces of Narathiwat, Pattani and Yala where an insurgency since 2004 has killed some 7,000 people.

SBPAC was hosting a government meeting on the region’s response to the outbreak of the coronavirus prior to the explosions.

“The first bomb was a grenade thrown to the area outside the SBPAC office fence to draw people out,” Colonel Pramote Prom-in, a military regional security spokesman told Reuters.

“Then a car bomb about 10m from the first explosion went off. This was hidden in a pick-up truck where the perpetrators parked near the fence.

Eighteen are wounded but no one died,” he said.

The car bomb exploded 10 minutes after the first explosion and among the wounded were five reporters, five police officers, two soldiers and other bystanders, Pramote said.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility. Such claims are rare following attacks in the region.

The population of the provinces, which belonged to an independent Malay-Muslim sultanate before Thailand annexed them in 1909, is 80% Muslim, while the rest of the country is overwhelmingly Buddhist.

Conflict has flared on and off for decades as insurgent groups fought a guerrilla war to demand independence for the area.

A peace dialogue between the Thai government and the main insurgent group, the Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN) has resumed this year, after the group pulled out of the process in 2014.