UPDATE: See my new post with updated information, wikipedia style on the bombings.
According to live TV reports at least 7 people have been killed and 79 injured in a coordinated set of bomb attacks in Hat Yai, Songkhla province in Thailand.
The Nation reports:
Hat Yai, Songkhla – Five people were killed and over 50 others were injured in four bomb attacks Saturday night.
The four bombs [BangkokPundit: I have heard 5 bombs on the news] went off nearly at the same time at 9 pm.
The first blast occurred at the entrance to This’ Wonder Pub located in the underground floor of Odion Shopping Mall Center on Thammanoon Withi Road.
Then, another bomb went off at the entrance of the car park of Odion Shopping Mall on the side of Sanehha Nusorn Road.
The third bomb exploded in front of a massage parlour about 70 metres away from the two first bombs.
The fourth bomb exploded in front of Big C superstore.
Police said the bomb at the massage parlour killed five men immediately because the blast occurred while they were walking into the parlour.
About 50 injured people had been rushed to the Hat Yai Hospital.
The sounds of the blasts prompted some 1,000 Thai and foreign tourists to flee from their hotels, causing turmoil on the roads.
Following the bombs, many entertainment venues asked the patrons to leave and they closed down for fear of more attacks.
Fourth Army Area commander Lt Gen Ongkorn Thongprasom said he had deployed bomb disposal officers to Hat Yai to check for more bombs and ordered the cancellation of mobile phone signals in the area for fear that militants would use mobile phones to detonate more bombs.
Some businessmen in Hat Yai said they had received warnings from the authorities that the militants might launch attacks to mark the anniversary of the Patani State on September 16.
The Thai military have been on high alert over an attack as the Bangkok Post reports:
Army chief Sonthi Boonyaratkalin also urged military personnel to be on high alert from today until Sept 20 for any possible attack by the GMIP (Gerakan Mujahidin Islam Pattani), the offshoot of GMP, to mark its anniversary.
Hat Yai in Songkhla province is not the usual target of the insurgents. Songkhla has not been greatly affected by the violence as Pattani, Yala, and Narathiwat (3 southern border provinces) as you can see from this Guardian article:
“Individual violent incidents amount to 5,460, with Narathiwat leading with 2,074. Pattani is next with 1,656 incidents and Yala has had 1,412 incidents,” Prof Srisomphop said. “Songkhla was last with 318 events.”
Many of the incidents in Songkhla province would be in the southeast/south of the province – see this Wikipedia page and note the image that Hat Yai (no 11) is quite far from the border with Pattani and Yala compared with the Thepa and Saba Yoi districts (No 5 and 6) on the map – so coordinated bombings in Hat Yai is unusual. However, it is not the first time as Wikipedia reports:
On April 3, 2005, two bomb attacks on a Carrefour department store and Hat Yai International Airport were done by Pattani separatistic terrorists. The attacks killed two people and injured dozens.
COMMENT: Hat Yai is an economic hub in Southern Thailand and major destination for Malaysian tourists. The continuing targeting of department stores and areas of commerce (yes, that includes a massage parlour) will be devastating on the economy, particularly the tourism sector. I would imagine the authorities would have expected attacks in the 3 southern border provinces and not in Hat Yai. This is just a continuation on attacks on special dates/anniversary.
UPDATE: According to a live news report I am listening to, it was a long weekend (Malaysia?) and there were a number of Malaysian tourists who were visiting. The pictures on Thai TV are quite graphic with pictures of the injured and eyewitness accounts. One foreigner (not necessarily a westerner) has been killed
UPDATE: Tenative reports state that one of the people killed is a westerner. The NationChannel (TV) reports it is a Canadian, but this is not confirmed. TV reports that a number of foreigners (not necessarily westerners again as many Malaysians visit Hat Yai) are injured, some seriously. The NationChanel has spoken to 2 hospitals and there are around 15-20 people who are seriously injured.
/>The NationChannel is speaking to the President/Chairman of the Hat Yai Hotel Association who states that many Singaporean and Malaysian tourists will check out tomorrow and return home. He also stated that hotels and the police had recently met over the latest threats (ie the GMIP anniversary).
/>The screenshot below is from the NationChannel (TV)