Nearly two dozen bombs exploded across Thailand's Muslim south on Sunday, killing three people and wounding at least 46 in attacks on karaoke bars, a hotel and other targets in mainly urban areas, the police and army said.
Most of the 23 bombs went off around 7 p.m. local time across the four southern provinces of Narathiwat, Yala, Pattani and Songkhla, near the Malaysian border, where more than 2,000 people have been killed in a three-year separatist insurgency.
"These incidents clearly show that the militants are targeting more populated areas," army spokesman Colonel Acra Tiprote told the ITV television broadcaster.
The latest violence in the Muslim-dominated deep south of predominantly Buddhist Thailand came just two days after Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont said his government wanted to hold talks with Muslim insurgents.
After replacing Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted by a coup last year, Surayud's military-appointed government has embarked on a peace offensive in the rebellious far south, but insurgent attacks have not diminished.
In Narathiwat on Sunday, one person was killed and 22 wounded in blasts at five karaoke bars in the border town of Sungai Kolok, a popular destination for Malaysian tourists. "They obviously timed these incidents for the Chinese New Year to gain maximum publicity," Acra said, referring to the start of the new Chinese lunar calendar -- the Year of the Pig.
Yala was hardest hit, with two killed and 24 wounded in attacks on bars, a small hotel, petrol stations and a golf driving range, army and police said.
Some areas of Pattani, including the provincial capital, were plunged into darkness after a bomb disabled a power substation. Earlier on Sunday, two people were shot dead by militants in Pattani, the provincial governor told ITV.
Police radio also reported arson attacks on three schools in Narathiwat and on scores of homes in the four provinces.