At least 60 people, including children, were injured on Tuesday after a car bomb exploded outside a supermarket in Thailand's insurgency-plagued south. While attacks happen most weeks in southern Thailand, but this latest one was the largest attack for months on a civilian target there due to its size and audacity.
Reports said the first bomb was hidden inside was packed inside a motorcycle in the car park, parked outside the Big C shopping centre in Pattani, a major grocery and retail chain in Thailand. The incident that took place around 2 pm sparked panic among shoppers.
"The second blast was a car bomb," Pattani police commander Major General Thanongsak Wangsupa told AFP.
Krissana Pattanacharoen, deputy national police spokesman said four of the injured people were criticial. A video posted by a witness on Twitter showed the second blast detonate in a large fireball, sending bystanders running for cover.
The footage showed the police asking people to move back when the second blast struck. An AFP photographer said the forensic officers started searching through the twisted remains of the car looking for clues in heavy rainfall.
A large swathe of the supermarket storefront had been blown away, replaced by a twisted mess of charred metal.
"I heard a very loud explosion," a resident who lives close to the supermarket told AFP, requesting anonymity. "Minutes after that, I heard the sirens of rescue cars and ambulances. I feel bad about it ... it happened at a place where people go to buy things."
The Muslim-majority border region has seethed with violence for over a decade as ethnic Malay insurgents battle the Buddhist-majority state for more autonomy. More than 6,800 lives have been taken because of near-daily shootings and bomb attacks since 2004.
The simmering insurgency plays out far from Thailand's popular tourist resorts and receives little international attention as a result.
The UN children's agency has condemned those behind the blasts for targeting an area where youngsters would be present. "No child's life should ever be put at risk in this way. This is wholly unacceptable," Thomas Davin, UNICEF's Thailand representative said.
The Thai junta has been conducting talks with an umbrella group claiming to represent the rebel foot-soldiers. But it has staggered along for almost four years without any result.
The Thai negotiators do not believe their rebel interlocutors have the power to stop the violence. The rebels want peace talks to include international observers, as well as discussions on devolving political power and on protecting their Malay-Muslim culture.
However, junta chief Prayut Chan-O-Cha reiterated his opposition to foreign involvement in solving the festering conflict shortly before Tuesday's attack. "We must keep this issue away from the reach of the international arena," he said in Bangkok.