This undated photo shows the iconic Golden Mermaid sculpture in Samila Beach in southern Thailand province of Songkhla. The statue was damaged when two bombs were exploded late on Dec 26, 2018. (PHOTO /THE NATION VIA ASIA NEWS NETWORK)
SONGKHLA, Thailand — Two small bombs exploded at a popular beach in southern Thailand, one of them damaging an iconic statue beloved by tourists, police said.
Police in Songkhla province said they're looking into whether the bombs late Wednesday were related to a Muslim separatist insurgency that has wracked nearby provinces since 2004, taking almost 7,000 lives.
The insurgency has mostly affected the three southernmost provinces of Pattani, Yala, and Narathiwat, which have Muslim majorities in predominantly Buddhist Thailand
One of the explosions damaged the Golden Mermaid sculpture, which is an unofficial symbol of the province, said police Lt Gen Ronnasilp Phusara. The other took place about 300 meters away, near the beach's Cat and Mouse sculpture.
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Police said a bomb disposal squad discovered and destroyed three other explosive devices found near a trash area and under rocks near the Golden Mermaid sculpture.
The insurgency has mostly affected the three southernmost provinces of Pattani, Yala, and Narathiwat, which have Muslim majorities in predominantly Buddhist Thailand. Songkhla, with a substantial Muslim population, has generally been spared the violence, though its biggest city, Hat Yai, has suffered several bombings.
Although terrorism is not considered a major problem in Thailand, tourist spots have been sporadically targeted since 2006, when a series of bombs were set off in Bangkok at New Year's Eve gatherings, killing three people and wounding more than three dozen.
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In 2016, bomb explosions in five beach towns popular with tourists killed four people and wounded dozens.
In both cases, southern separatists were suspected but responsibility was never definitively established.
Thailand's most spectacular attack in recent years occurred at the Erawan Shrine in the center of Bangkok's tourist district in August 2015. Twenty people, mostly foreign tourists, were killed and more than 100 hurt.