Thai authorities are looking for a suspect in the car bombing in the south of the country

HAT YAI, Thailand (AP) — Police said Wednesday they were trying to identify the suspect in a police housing bombing that killed an officer and injured 45 others in a part of southern Thailand. Thailand troubled by a Muslim separatist insurgency for nearly two decades.

Police said the suspect drove a black van into the compound and then exited after parking the vehicle. He was dressed to look like a plainclothes officer in footage captured by a surveillance camera. The injured were mostly civilians, including three children.

Since the insurgency began in 2004, more than 7,300 people have been killed in Narathiwat, Pattani and Yala, the only Muslim-majority provinces in Buddhist-dominated Thailand. Attacks also took place in the neighboring province of Songkhla. Several distinct insurgent groups are active, some of which are engaged in recurring peace talks with the government.

Muslim residents, almost all of Malay ethnicity, have long accused of being treated as second-class citizens in Thailand, and separatist movements have been periodically active for decades. Strong repressions fueled discontent.

In August, a wave of arson and bombings hit the three southernmost provinces, mainly targeting convenience stores and gas stations. No one claimed responsibility for the attacks, which left three injured.

Tuesday’s attack on police accommodation was the second this year to use a car bomb, after one was detonated in Pattani in June, injuring a policeman. However, there have been around 60 car bombings since 2005, according to police.

National Police Chief General Damrongsak Kittiprapas said forensic experts believe the explosive device was made from a 50-kilogram (110-pound) cooking gas cylinder.

The bombing was condemned by Human Rights Watch, which said “it appeared to be aimed at causing as many civilian casualties as possible,” said Elaine Pearson, Asia director at Human Rights. Watch, in an emailed statement.

“Those responsible for planning, ordering, or carrying out such attacks should be duly brought to justice,” Human Rights Watch said, adding that it has repeatedly condemned the Thai government and insurgent forces for their actions. abuse during their struggle.

“Thai authorities should thoroughly and impartially investigate the bombing of the apartment compound and hold all those responsible accountable,” Pearson said. “At the same time, the Thai government should recognize that as long as Thai security forces can commit abuses against Malay Muslims with impunity, armed separatist groups will exploit this to attempt to justify unlawful attacks.”

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