Bomb detonated in a busy shopping centre

The aftermath of the bomb in the Samui mall

The aftermath of the bomb in the Samui mall Photo: @Nouytnews

A car bomb exploded at a shopping mall on a Thai island popular with foreign tourists for its pristine beaches, injuring seven people, officials said on Saturday.

The improvised bomb was hidden in a pickup truck and went off late Friday night on the basement level of the shopping Central Festival mall on Samui Island in Surat Thani province, after a fashion show, the island’s disaster prevention and mitigation chief Poonsak Sophonpathumrak told The Associated Press.

He said authorities believed the vehicle was stolen from one of the three southernmost Thai provinces plagued by violence. More than 5,000 people have been killed since an Islamic insurgency began in the sub-region in 2004.

Muslims in the area, which was an independent Islamic sultanate until it was annexed by Thailand in the early 20th century, have long complained of discrimination, and the insurgents are thought to be fighting for autonomy. The militants, however, have made no public pronouncements about their aims.

Poonsak said the bomb had destroyed most of the pickup truck and damaged a few other vehicles that were parked nearby at the mall, which was located a few hundred feet from the popular Chaweng beach.

“The authorities are still investigating the scene to find out more details before linking it to any insurgency groups,” he said.

Samui is one of the country’s top island destinations among foreign and Thai tourists. It has rarely been a target of militant attacks in the past.