MORE than 20 people have been wounded - four seriously - when a car bomb went off near a hotel in the far south of Thailand, a local governor says.
The blast occurred in front of a hotel in the Sadao district of Songkhla province, an area rarely targeted by insurgents fighting for a level of autonomy for Thailand's southernmost provinces which have a Malay Muslim majority.
Television footage showed a smoke-choked road and charred cars outside the hotel.
Two other bombs attached to parked motorcycles struck a police checkpoint and a police station elsewhere in the province without causing injury, according to Songkhla governor Kritsada Boonrat.
"Something like this has never happened in Sadao district before... this area is a border trade area (with Malaysia)," Ms Kritsada said, adding security will be stepped up.
He said police were checking CCTV footage and forensic teams were investigating the three bomb sites, but did not say who he believed was responsible.
The southernmost provinces are in the grip of a near-decade-long insurgency which has cost thousands of lives - the majority of them civilians.
The violence occurs on a near-daily basis in Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat, and occasionally extends to several districts in Songkhla.
Tentative peace talks between the Thai state and representatives of the major rebel group have stalled.
Another round of talks scheduled for December has been postponed as the crisis-hit Thai government handles massive street protests in Bangkok aimed at toppling Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.
National Security Council chief Paradorn Pattanatabut said the culprits may have been linked to the Thai rebellion in the south, and could have been expressing anger that peace talks have faltered while the government concentrates on political turmoil in Bangkok.
"A second theory is it was related to the domestic political situation - to discredit the government," he added.
Sources close to the talks have raised doubt over whether the peace talks will continue given the political unrest in Bangkok.