Thailand Viewed by Aljazeera.net

PM Surayud said a public relations drive would held to explain Thailand’s political situation abroad [AFP]

Blast hits Thailand night market

A bomb explosion
has injured 20 people at a busy night market in southern Thailand, in
an attack officials said was carried out by Muslim fighters aiming
to stir up communal tensions.

 
A note at the scene
said the blast on Monday evening in Pattani province was revenge for
the bombing on Saturday of a mosque which left one man dead, police
said.
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The attack came
soon after the government in Bangkok said it would hire a public
relations firm to improve Thailand’s image abroad.
 
Surayud Chulanont,
the Thai prime minister, said the government had hired a US public
relations firm on a $600,000 three-month contract.
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‘Revenge’ killing
 
Monday’s night
market bomb was hidden in the front basket of a motorcycle, which was
parked in front of a Muslim food stall in the market in Muang district,
police said.
 

More than 2,000 people have been killed since
an uprising in the south flared in 2004 [EPA]

Four of the 20 wounded had serious injuries. 

 
The blast followed the bombing of a mosque on Saturday which killed a Muslim man and injured three others.
 
In a separate
incident on Monday attackers killed two Buddhist villagers, beheading
one of them, and left another note saying killing was in revenge for
the mosque bombing.
 
On the same day one person was injured after a bomb exploded at a roadside restaurant in Narathiwat province.
 
Despite the recent
spate of what appears to be tit-for-tat attacks in the south, Thai
authorities have played down any suggestion that sectarian violence has
broken out.
 
Instead, they have generally blamed Muslim fighters for attacks on both Buddhists and Muslims.
 
Thailand is
overwhelmingly Buddhist, but Muslims are a majority in the south, where
they have long complained of discrimination.
 
Since
an uprising flared in the country’s Muslim-majority southernmost
provinces in early 2004, near-daily bombings, drive-by shootings and
other attacks have killed more than 2,000 people.
 
Lobbyists
 
The government’s
decision to fund an international public relations drive  follows
a move three months ago by Thaksin Shinawatra, the former prime
minister ousted in a coup last September.
 
He has hired two
Washington lobbyists, purportedly to study the international legal and
political issues surrounding his overthrow.
 
Thaksin has denied
having any further political ambitions, but has travelled to many
capitals across Europe and Asia since he was deposed, meeting
government and business leaders.
 
Surayud, Thaksin’s
military-appointed successor, indicated one reason for the public
relations move was to counter any lobbying on Thaksin’s behalf.
 
It may also be to counter moves by US pharmaceutical companies to shame Thailand for breaking Aids drugs patents.
 
A lobby supporting
the US pharmaceutical industry placed an advertisement in the Wall
Street Journal last week criticising the Thai government’s breaking of
patents.

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