At least one woman has died and 18 others were wounded after a bomb destroyed a noodle shop in southern Thailand, where the government has been battling insurgents for more than half a century.
Agence France-Presse reports that the blast occurred around 7 p.m. on Monday in downtown Pattani, a town in Thailand’s Muslim-majority deep south near the border with Malaysia.
An AFP reporter at the site said multiple casualties could be seen, and many of the injuries appeared critical. The one reported fatality was a Buddhist woman, police told the news agency.
Monday’s blast occurred on the eve of the anniversary of a 2004 crackdown on antigovernment demonstrators that left 85 people dead in Tak Bai, a town in the neighboring province of Narathiwat. Most died when paramilitary forces stacked Muslim detainees atop each other like cargo to transport them to the Inkayut military camp. When the trucks arrived, scores of detainees had suffocated or died from crushed organs.
Monday’s blast also occurs less than two weeks after the death of King Bhumibol Adulyadej. The King’s death has plunged the nation into political uncertainty, and the military junta — which took power in a 2014 coup — has tightened security on several fronts amid vague “intelligence reports” of potential bomb plots allegedly linked to the southern insurgency.
On a major holiday marking the Queen’s birthday in August, simultaneous blasts at a number of popular tourist destinations in southern Thailand left four people dead and dozens injured. Police said at the time the explosives were “similar” to those used by southern insurgents, though military officials dismissed the possibility that the attacks were an extension of the separatist conflict.