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One dead, dozens wounded in Thai car blast

A car bomb exploded in a nightlife district in Thailand's deep south, killing one and wounding more than 30, in a nation already on edge after a bombing spree that targeted tourist towns.

The latest blast struck late Tuesday outside a hotel in Pattani, one of three Muslim-majority southern provinces battered by a long-running and shadowy rebellion against the Buddhist-majority state.

"So far there is one killed and more than 30 injured," Major General Thanongsak Wangsupa, Pattani provincial police commander, told AFP Wednesday. "The hotel building was considerably damaged."

Pictures showed fires burning on the road outside the hotel's shattered facade, with police picking through the rubble. Nearby a car was destroyed, and karaoke bars, massage parlors and restaurants were also damaged.

Pattani is not popular with tourists, but analysts said, the militants were sending a message after coordinated bomb and arson attacks that struck multiple resort towns on August 11 to 12, leaving four dead and 37 injured, including Europeans.

Those attacks heightened concerns Thailand's southern insurgency may have spread north after years of stalled peace talks -- a theory the country's junta has downplayed given the importance of tourism to the economy.

The entertainment district hit by the car bomb is one of only a handful in the restive south, offering bars, a disco and prostitution, said Don Pathan, a security analyst based in the region.

"It's the type of place that society around here frowns upon," he said.

The southern rebels focus most of their attacks on security officers and symbols of the state, but they do occasionally strike nightlife venues.

"The campaign against social evil is not very high on the agenda of the insurgents here. Their strategy right now is to make the area as ungovernable as possible," Pathan said.

Speaking to reporters after the Pattani hotel blast, Thailand's deputy junta leader Prawit Wongsuwan again dismissed any link between the tourist town attacks earlier this month and the southern insurgency.

He also said, any negotiations with the rebels would be shelved until violence subsides.

"All violence must first stop before we can set the terms of reference for talks. They need to show their sincerity," he said.

Police said in a statement that the strike on the Southern View Hotel was preceded by a smaller bomb at a nearby bar, a so-called "double tap" tactic often adopted by insurgents. No-one was hurt in that explosion.

A staff member at the town's hospital said 32 people were injured, five of them critically. All are Thai nationals, the worker added, asking not to be named.

Topics: Thailand , Unrest , Tourism
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