Bomb kills two top provincial officials in Thai south

Bangkok: A bomb blast killed two top provincial officials on Friday in Thailand's insurgency-plagued south, authorities said, a week after the kingdom held its first formal peace talks with rebels.

The deputy governor of Yala province, Issara Thongthawat, was killed along with Yala permanent secretary responsible for security, Chavalit Krairisk, after a roadside bomb struck their vehicle, officials said.

Issara, 56, was rushed to hospital but later died, southern army spokesman Colonel Pramote Promin said by telephone.

He said the deputy governor appeared to have been targeted by militants while on his way to attend a local food fair.

"Explosive material was put inside a gas cylinder and hidden under the road," he said. "His driver is still in critical condition."

More than 5,500 people have been killed in nine years of bloodshed in Thailand's Muslim-majority south near the border with Malaysia, with shadowy insurgent groups blamed for near-daily bombings and shootings.

Security personnel and those connected with the government are regularly targeted, as well as Muslims perceived to be collaborating with the authorities.

Thailand held its first official peace talks with southern insurgents last week, with a one-day meeting with representatives of the Barisan Revolusi Nasional in Malaysia's capital Kuala Lumpur.

But while talks were said to be cordial -- and a further round was set for April 29 -- attacks have continued in the region.

Little is known about the various militant groups' identities, structures or aims, and questions remain over the ability of older militant leaders to rein in attacks by a younger generation of insurgents.



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