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Bombs greet Thai PM on visit to troubled south

world Updated: Jan 07, 2010 09:40 IST

Suspected separatist militants detonated two bombs in Thailand's Muslim-majority south on Thursday as Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva arrived for a visit, police said.

The first blast was just 100 metres (yards) from where Abhisit was due to open a road later in the day in the town of Yala, and slightly wounded a policeman who was part of the security team for the trip, they said.

The second was also in Yala but there were no casualties. Police said they were defusing a third bomb on the road nearby.

Abhisit, who admits he has failed to stem the violence in the south, landed in Narathiwat province and was due to also visit Yala and Pattani provinces during the one-day visit.

More than 4,100 people have died during a six-year anti-government insurgency across the three provinces led by a shadowy mix of Islamist and separatist militants who never publicly state their goals.

In other violence, gunmen on motorcycles on Wednesday shot dead a Buddhist man who ran the local meteorology department in a district of Pattani, police said.

A 25-year-old Islamic militant was shot and killed in Narathiwat provincial town on Wednesday after he clashed with a security team that was clearing the area ahead of Abhisit's visit.

Thai authorities have mobilised more than 1,000 security forces plus eight helicopters to protect Abhisit and senior ministers as they open roads, give gifts to children and visit a model village during the trip.

It comes just one month after the Thai premier visited the region with his Malaysian counterpart to rename a bridge between the two countries.

Tensions have bubbled in the south with occasional flare-ups since predominantly Buddhist Thailand annexed the former Malay Muslim sultanate in 1902.