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

Security personnel inspect the site of a car bomb after if exploded in front of the government's Southern Border Provinces Administrative Centre in Yala, Thailand, on March 17, 2020.
PHOTO: Reuters

BANGKOK - Two bombs exploded in front of a government office in Thailand's insurgency-hit southern Yala province on Tuesday (March 17), wounding 18 people, a security official said.

The explosions took place in front of the Southern Border Provinces Administrative Centre (SBPAC), a Thai government body that oversees the administration of the 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 regional military security spokesman told Reuters.

"Then a car bomb about 10 metres from the first explosion went off. This was hidden in a pick-up truck which the perpetrators parked near the fence. Eighteen are wounded and no one died," he said.

The car bomb exploded ten minutes after the first explosion and among the wounded were five reporters, five police officers, two soldiers and other bystanders, Col 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 per cent 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 pull out of the process in 2014.