One killed, nine wounded in Thai south blast

NARATHIWAT - A policeman was killed and nine other people wounded Tuesday in a bomb attack in Thailand's insurgency-hit deep south, officials said, as authorities vowed talks with rebels will continue.

The roadside bomb was detonated by suspected insurgents targeting police who had been called to the scene of a failed ambush on a senior local official in Sungai Padi district, Narathiwat province.

A sergeant died on the way to hospital after the bomb - hidden in a metal box and detonated by mobile phone - exploded, a local police official told AFP.

Three other officers were left in a critical condition, while a civilian was also wounded in the blast, the official added.

Narathiwat is one of several violence-wracked provinces in the Muslim-majority Thai south, where some 5,700 people have been killed since the insurgency flared in 2004.

Rounds of talks in Malaysia between Thai authorities and some rebel groups, including the Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN), had raised tentative hopes of peace.

But a ceasefire, supposed to last from July 10 to August 18 to mark the Islamic holy month, faltered after a few days, with local observers recording 29 deaths during Ramadan.

Rebels claiming to be from the BRN last week released a YouTube clip threatening to quit talks.

But Thai authorities on Tuesday said negotiations will go ahead.

"Negotiations with the BRN must continue... on August 18 we will make contact with the BRN through Malaysia to set up a new date for talks," Thailand's National Security Council chief and lead peace negotiator Paradorn Pattanatabut told AFP.

"We will raise the issue of the death toll during Ramadan to find out who was behind the killing," he said.

The number of attacks during Ramadan was similar to last year but they caused fewer fatalities, he said.

He added that, contrary to reports, the rebel group's main negotiator, Hassan Taib, had not withdrawn from talks.

Negotiations began on March 28 but have so far failed to halt near-daily violence, raising questions about the rebel group's influence over increasingly violent grassroots insurgents.