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Last Updated: Friday, 18 February, 2005, 02:27 GMT
Thai bomb blast after PM's visit
Thai soldiers inspect the damages caused by a bomb which exploded outside a hotel at Sungai Kolok in Narathiwat province, 17/2/05
The bomb was the most powerful so far in southern Thailand
A car bomb in southern Thailand has killed five people and injured more than 40, as PM Thaksin Shinawatra ended a controversial visit to the region.

The bomb exploded in the border town of Sungai Kolok in Narathiwat province at 1905 (1205 GMT), police said.

It came hours after Mr Thaksin said he would use military muscle and economic sanctions to punish villages that were sympathetic to Islamic separatists.

Local leaders in the largely Muslim region strongly criticised the plan.

The bomb was planted in a car parked near the Marina Hotel, said police spokesman Nawin Nilwanith.

Sungai Kolok is a popular tourist town on the border with Malaysia. It is not the first time the town has been the target of a suspected militant attack.

The bombing came as Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra was touring the country's Muslim-dominated south, the scene of sectarian violence which has claimed more than 550 lives since January last year.

Home to most of Thailand's 4% Muslim minority
Muslim rebels fought the government up to the mid-80s
Suspected militants have upped attacks since 2004, targeting Buddhists
Security forces' response criticised by rights groups

During Thursday's tour, Mr Thaksin outlined his latest plans to tackle the ongoing violence - plans which the BBC's correspondent in Bangkok, Kylie Morris, says are his most controversial yet.

Some 1,580 southern villages have been surveyed for their co-operation with the government, and categorised as red, yellow or green, depending on the degree of violence found there.

Villages are designated as red if they are frequently violent, if they refuse to co-operate with the authorities, and if more than half the residents are judged to be sympathetic to the aims of the insurgents.

Three hundred and fifty-eight villages are cited as red zones, including 200 in the province of Narathiwat.

Mr Thaksin has said he will give more than $500m to villages across the country within the next 10 weeks, and each community's quota will depend on its colour code. Red zone villages will not get any money.

"We don't give money to those red villages because we don't want them to spend the money on explosives, road spikes or assassins," Mr Thaksin told villagers in Narathiwat.

"If the money sanctions do not work, I will send soldiers to lay siege to the red zone villages and put more pressure on them," he added.

"I will never allow anyone to separate even one square inch from this country, even though this land will have to be soaked with blood. So I'd like everyone to be friends with me. Don't be friends with bad guys," he said.

But Abdulrohman Abdulsamad, chairman of the Islamic Council of Narathiwat, said Mr Thaksin's ideas would only succeed in pushing villagers into the arms of militants.

"When [the Muslim world] find that we are being ignored or sanctioned... they will step in," he said.

Mr Thaksin is meeting both Muslim and Buddhist leaders on his three-day tour.

More than 500 people have been killed in the south in a wave of violence blamed on Muslim insurgents.

In the past months, Buddhist monks, teachers, police and soldiers have been ambushed and murdered on an almost daily basis.

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