BANGKOK (AP) — A car bomb exploded at a shopping mall on a Thai island popular with foreign tourists for its pristine beaches, injuring seven people, officials said Saturday.
The improvised bomb was hidden in a pickup truck and went off late Friday night in the basement of the Central Festival mall on Samui Island in Surat Thani province, after a fashion show, the island's disaster prevention and mitigation chief Poonsak Sophonpathumrak told The Associated Press.
He said authorities believed the vehicle was stolen from one of the three southernmost Thai provinces plagued by Islamic insurgency. More than 5,000 people have been killed in the three southern provinces since 2004.
Muslims in the area, which was an independent Islamic sultanate until it was annexed by Thailand in the early 20th century, have long complained of discrimination, and the insurgents are thought to be fighting for autonomy. The militants, however, have made no public pronouncements about their aims.
Poonsak said the bomb destroyed most of the pickup truck and damaged a few other vehicles that were parked nearby at the mall, which is located a few hundred meters (feet) from the popular Chaweng beach.
"The authorities are still investigating the scene to find out more details before linking it to any insurgency groups," he said.
Samui is one of the country's top island destinations among foreign and Thai tourists. Insurgents have used car bombs in attacks on other tourist spots in southern provinces, but have never targeted Samui.