Explosion wounds 18 at government office in Thailand

Col Pramote Prom-in said a grenade and a car bomb were used to attack the Southern Border Provinces Administration Centre in the capital city of Yala province.

Police wearing facemasks, amid concerns over the spread of the COVID-19 novel coronavirus, stand guard outside the parliament building, currently under construction, as people take part in a demonstration calling for the creation of a new constitution in Bangkok on March 13, 2020. / AFP / Romeo GACAD

A bombing of a major government office in Thailand’s insurgency-plagued far south on Tuesday wounded at least 20 people.

Col Pramote Prom-in said a grenade and a car bomb were used to attack the Southern Border Provinces Administration Centre in the capital city of Yala province.

The explosions took place in front of the Southern Border Provinces Administrative Center (SBPAC), a Thai government body that oversees the administration of three mostly Malay-Muslim majority provinces of Narathiwat, Pattani and Yala where an insurgency since 2004 has killed some 7,000 people.

SBPAC was hosting a government meeting on the region's response to the outbreak of the coronavirus prior to the explosions.

"The first bomb was a grenade throne to the area outside the SBPAC office fence to draw people out," Col Pramote Prom-in, a military regional security spokesman told Reuters.

"Then a car bomb about 10 metres from the first explosion went off. This was hidden in a pick-up truck where the perpetrators parked near the fence. Eighteen are wounded and no one died," he said.

The car bomb exploded ten minutes after the first explosion and among the wounded were five reporters, five police officers, two soldiers and other bystanders, Pramote said.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility. Such claims are rare following attacks in the region.

The population of the provinces, which belonged to an independent Malay Muslim sultanate before Thailand annexed them in 1909, is 80 percent Muslim, while the rest of the country is overwhelmingly Buddhist. Conflict has flared on and off for decades as insurgent groups fought a guerrilla war to demand independence for the area.

A peace dialogue between the Thai government and the main insurgent group, the Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN) has resumed this year, after the group pull out of the process in 2014.