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Violence Continues in Southern Thailand

A series of bomb explosions in southern Thailand has injured more than 30 people and killed at least one man in the past two days, as sectarian violence continues in the region.

An elderly man was killed and eight other people were injured Saturday when a bomb ripped through a market in the predominantly Buddhist town of Tan Toh in the province of Yala.

On Friday, a bomb went off in a crowded restaurant in Narathiwat province, injuring 16 people. Several hours later, two more exploded in nearby towns, but no one was injured.

Also on Saturday, a policeman was shot and killed while driving home in nearby Pattani province.

At least 27 people, the majority of them Buddhists, have been killed in apparent retaliation attacks since more than 80 Muslims died when security forces put down a demonstration two weeks ago.

Thailand is a predominantly Buddhist country but around 10 percent of the population is Muslim. Most of the Muslim community lives in the southern provinces of Narathiwat, Pattani, and Yala near the Malaysia border.

Sunai Phasuk from Human Rights Watch in Bangkok says the government has done little to contain the almost daily attacks.

"We continue to see the increase of militarization, we continue to see the increase of the climate of fear among the Muslim population and above all, most important, is the failure of the Thai state to ensure safety to the population in southern Thailand, both the Buddhist community and the Muslim community, said Sunai Phasuk.

The government blames the violence, which began in January, on Muslim separatists.

Many political and security analysts also blame corrupt politicians, rivalries among the military and police, and some frustrated Muslims who feel disenfranchised by the government.

Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra said in a weekly radio speech Saturday that he wanted to solve the conflict peacefully, but he also was forced to use harsh means to stop the bloodshed.

The Thai leader says he has ordered provincial governors in the south to consult with community leaders, including Muslim leaders, on ways to bring peace.

More than 450 people have died in the southern violence this year.