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'Political link' to island bombing

A car bomb explosion on the popular holiday island of Samui in Thailand that injured seven people may be linked to the country's political turmoil, a spokesman for the military government said today.

Initial reports indicated the attack was carried out by the same group behind recent blasts in the capital, Bangkok, which caused no fatalities, said Maj.Gen. Sansern Kaewkamnerd.

He did not elaborate, but the leader of the junta that took power in a coup last May has blamed the Bangkok blasts on groups opposed to the military takeover.

The improvised bomb on Samui late Friday was hidden in a pick-up truck and went off after a fashion show in the basement parking area of the Central Festival mall, the island's disaster prevention and mitigation chief Poonsak Sophonpathumrak said.

Thai media reported that an Italian was among seven injured.

Authorities believe 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 provinces since 2004.

Muslim militants generally do not operate beyond the three provinces, though a handful of bombings or attempted bombings in other areas have been tentatively attributed to rebels in the past.

The military linked the Samui blast to two small bombs that exploded outside a major shopping mall in Bangkok in early February, slightly injuring two people. Junta leader and prime minister Prayuth Chan-ocha said at the time that the blasts were aimed at discrediting the government.

In March, a series of arrests were made in connection with a grenade that was thrown at Bangkok's Criminal Court, and those detained were apparently sympathisers of the anti-government Red Shirt movement, which was formed by supporters of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra after he was deposed in a 2006 coup.

Thailand has suffered from almost a decade of sometimes violent political unrest as supporters and opponents of Thaksin have jousted for power. Thaksin's sister Yingluck Shinawatra was elected prime minister in 2011, but forced from office by a controversial court ruling in May last year, shortly before the latest coup ousted her government.

Government critics have suggested that some of the bombings may have been carried out by the military government to justify its continued suppression of basic rights and liberties. The government denies it.

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