Bombs Explode Across Thailand's Restive South

At least 40 bombs exploded in Thailand's restive south, killing two people and wounding at least 16 others. Officials say the devices detonated within minutes of each other, as the government's deputy prime minister for security, Chitchai Wannasathit, was visiting the region.

The bombs exploded at government offices and police installations in the three southernmost provinces.

Thai officials say they had prior intelligence that separatist militants were about to stage a major attack, but they did not know what form it would take.

The attacks followed a period of relative calm in the mostly Muslim region. Local resentment boiled over against the government of the predominately Buddhist nation more than two years ago and since then 1,300 people have been killed in the south. But in the past month or so, attacks apparently had been limited.

The head of the Thai Army, Sonthi Boonyaratkalin, said officials must be more aware of the situation.

He says there should be greater cooperation between the people and government officials to combat the violence.

The Thai representative of Human Rights Watch, Sunai Phasuk, says the attacks show that the militants have not been weakened as the government has claimed.

"The attacks [this morning] show the ability of the militants to carry out attacks across three provinces with punctuality, with the ability as well to avoid civilian casualties," said Sunai.

The attacks come 10 days after a special commission presented a report on the violence based on more than one year of research.

The National Reconciliation Commission said the causes of the violence - poverty, injustice and a lack of good schools - are common throughout Thailand. But it said in the south these have been aggravated by differences in religion, ethnicity and language.

The commission recommended the creation of several commissions to address local grievances, economic development and reconciliation.

Sunai, who has spent months studying the violence in the south, called the report solid and accurate but said the government is reluctant to implement its recommendations.

"The recommendations of the Reconciliation Commission require the government to acknowledge the right of Muslim populations to participate in public administration at all levels and above all the right of the Muslim populations to have access to justice and fairness," added Sunai.

The Thai government has sought to address the grievances in the south through jobs and development programs, but has also vowed to punish the attackers.

Human rights groups accuse security personnel of using excessive force and of being behind dozens of disappearances of Muslim leaders.

The Reconciliation Commission said as a result there is a deep mistrust of the government and its officials in the south. That has led to a climate of fear and made local residents reluctant to cooperate with the authorities.