Another powerful car bomb rocked the deep South Tuesday just hours after the government announced plans to establish a new command centre in Bangkok to deal with the violence.
The blast occurred near the CS Pattani Hotel in Muang district about 6.50pm, injuring an unknown number of people.
The blast severely damaged parts of the hotel located on Nong Chik Road and at least one car parked nearby. It also caused a blackout which forced the hotel management to evacuate its guests as it was plunged into darkness.
Eyewitnesses said a number of people were injured by the impact of the explosion which was being investigated by security forces late Tuesday night.
They were also combing the area around the hotel in case another bomb had been planted.
Pattani governor Theera Mintrasak said the bomber drove an Isuzu pickup truck laden with around 50kg of explosive and parked it outside the back gate of the eight-storey hotel, which was unguarded.
A nearby power transformer was destroyed in the blast, cutting electricity to the hotel. The powerful blast also shattered the hotel windows.
The hotel kitchen which was facing the blast site caught fire, which quickly spread to the upper floors of the hotel. Firefighters took more than an hour to control the blaze.
One hotel guest on the seventh floor sustained a minor hand injury and at least three hotel staff members were injured by shattered glass.
Investigators sent to the scene said the air near the hotel smelled of benzene. Two vehicles belonging to residents were also damaged in the blast.
Mr Theera said luckily there were only a few houses near the back of the hotel close to where the explosion took place. Police were checking footage from a CCTV camera attached to a pole close to where the transformer was located.
The hotel immediately evacuated its guests as the entire building was plunged into darkness.
About a half hour after the bomb blast, two other power transformers exploded in different locations in downtown Pattani.
One was located on Paknam Road and the other on Jaroen Pradit Road. The explosions caused a blackout in many parts of the Muang district.
Security officials were investigating whether the two incidents were related to the hotel incident.
The car bomb yesterday was the third major incident to hit the deep South since the start of the holy month of Ramadan on July 20.
Army spokesman Colonel Sansern Kaewkamnerd said the explosion outside the CS Pattani Hotel was probably the work of separatist insurgents.
Pattani senator Anusak Suwanmongkol, the hotel's owner, said in an interview with ThaiPBS the bomb blast and resulting fire had severely damaged parts of the hotel.
It was the second time the hotel has been hit by a bomb. The first blast occurred in 2008, killing two people.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra had called a special meeting yesterday to assess the situation before deciding that a new permanent command centre was needed in Bangkok to handle the southern unrest.
Deputy Prime Minister Yutthasak Sasiprapa, who oversees security affairs said the new command centre will comprise all agencies involved in the fight to quell violence in the southern including the Internal Security Operations Command, which will serve as a key unit at the centre. The new centre will be co-chaired by deputy prime ministers Chalerm Yubamrung, Yongyuth Wichaidit, and Gen Yutthasak.
Before the meeting, Mr Chalerm said if he was assigned by Ms Yingluck to take overall charge of the government's handling of the southern unrest, he would propose establishing the new command centre at the Royal Thai Police's headquarters.
The new centre would operate to the same standards as that of the US Pentagon, and the centre should be called Pentagon II, he said.
Mr Chalerm said he believed Pentagon II would improve efficiency in the government's fight against the southern insurgency just as the Pentagon worked successfully to hunt down Osama bin Laden.
Army deputy spokesman Col Winthai Suwaree said the command centre will not interfere with the anti-insurgent work of the army.
Jurin Laksanavisit, a Democrat Party MP and chief opposition whip, said the opposition would file an urgent motion in the House of Representatives seeking a debate on increasing violence in the South.
He said the security situation in the far South has worsened. In June alone, there were 80 incidents in which 47 people were killed, 15 of them government employees.
Despite the seriousness of the problem, the prime minister has never visited the troubled areas to get first-hand information following major incidents, Mr Jurin said.
Police manning security checkpoints on roads entering Yala provincial township have been ordered to watch out for a black Toyota Vios car which may have been fitted with a bomb.
Yala police chief Pol Maj-Gen Peera Boonliang, issued the order, saying he was acting on a tip-off.
He said the driver was likely to be a woman dressed in Muslim attire.
Militants planned to detonate it somewhere in the municipality, or in a nearby area, with petrol stations in particular likely to be targetted, he said.
Also in Yala, copies of photos along with the names and ages of 16 people suspected of being behind the 25 July bomb attack in Raman district which killed five police and wounded another officer have been distributed to security checkpoints set up to hunt for the suspects, especially Kaman Chaichana, 35, their suspected leader.
The second car bomb attack in four years has again damaged the luxury CS Pattani Hotel and wounded three people.
The 7:15pm blast caused a fire that burned up to the seventh flood. It caused unknown damage but caused on further casualties.
Police evacuated the hotel and explosives experts jammed all mobile phone signals in the city centre in case of more attempts to set off bombs.
Police estimated that the bomb was a 10kg device hidden in a pickup truck parked behind the CS Pattani.
The explosion was large enough to blow out a nearby power transformer, plunging most of Pattani into darkness.
A second bomb was heard a few minutes after the car bomb, apparently in the Paknam area of the city.
The hotel was attacked in 2008 by car bombers, killing three people and wounding 10 others.
01 August 2012
Photos by Post Today photographers show the damage done at the back of the CS Pattani Hotel in the second car bomb attack against the luxury hotel in four years.