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Martial law imposed in southern Thailand

The Thai government imposed martial law on Thursday in two Muslim-dominated districts of its insurgency-wracked south.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Thailand’s government imposed martial law on Thursday in two Muslim-dominated districts of its insurgency-wracked south, a day after Islamic separatists staged a new show of strength with bombings that blacked out a provincial capital.

Gen. Khwanchart Klaharn, the top security official for the south, announced that martial law was being declared in two districts of Songkhla province, adjacent to the country’s three southernmost Muslim-dominated provinces where the insurgency has flared, killing more than 1,100 people since January last year.

The latest announcement comes four months after authorities declared a state of emergency in Narathiwat, Yala and Pattani provinces. Parts of the provinces had been under martial law for years, as the area, on the border with Malaysia, has always been considered a sensitive one.

Insurgents staged several attacks in all three provinces Wednesday night, most notably in the provincial capital of Narathiwat, where several bombings knocked out electricity to most of the city.

Grisly discovery
Meanwhile, police announced Thursday they had recovered the severed head of a man believed to be a Buddhist monk.

No one took responsibility for the attacks, but police said they were probably linked to continuing violence in southern Thailand.

On Wednesday, a dozen bombs were planted throughout Narathiwat — the capital of the province of the same name — but security forces defused seven of them, said Col. Somkuan Saengpatraneth, spokesman for the regional army headquarters.

Somkuan said Thursday that police found the body of one of the bombers, but ruled out a suicide attack — saying it appeared that one bomb exploded prematurely. Three people were injured in the bombings and electricity was knocked out in the city.

More than 1,100 people have died since a once-dormant Islamic separatist movement re-emerged in January 2004 in the three southern provinces, the only ones with Muslim majorities in predominantly Buddhist Thailand.

Up to 10 percent of Thailand’s 65 million people are Muslims. Most live in the three southernmost provinces, where they have long complained of second-class treatment.