|Wounded Thai soldiers are transported in a pick-up truck after their patrol was hit by a roadside bomb in the southern Pattani province September 23, 2010|
Pattani, Thailand - A bomb killed two policemen and wounded four other officers Saturday in Thailand's violence-wracked Narathiwat province where separatists had vowed to disrupt the New Year festivities.
The bomb exploded in a crowded open market in Sungaipadi district of Narathiwat, 750 kilometres south of Bangkok, at 7:50 am (0050 GMT), while police were trying to defuse the device, police said.
Four civilians were also wounded by the blast, believed to have been detonated by a mobile phone, said deputy commander of the southern region unit Police Lieutenant General Suprukchai Anekwiang.
'The insurgents have been threatening to commit violent acts during the New Year season so we have been on high alert,' Suprukcahi said. 'But you have to understand that it is easier for them to attack than for us to prevent them from doing so.'
The cabinet on Tuesday revoked emergency law in Mae Lan district of Pattani province, part of the majority-Muslim deep South region, where violence has claimed more than 4,000 lives over the past seven years.
The lifting of the decree in the Mae Lan district adjoining Pattani city, where stability has been restored, was seen as a test case toward revoking the decree in the entire region, which includes Narathiwat, Pattani and Yala provinces. The decree is to be replaced by the less harsh Internal Security Act, he said.
The deep South has been the scene of persistent violence since January 2004 when Muslim militants raided an army weapons depot in Pattani and made off with 300 rifles.
The raid prompted several government crackdowns on the region's long-simmering separatist movement. It is fuelled by a sense of religious, cultural and ethnic alienation from the predominantly Buddhist Thai state by local residents, who have more in common with neighbouring Malaysia.
Army crackdowns in 2004 further antagonized the local population and led to a reprisal killings of both Buddhists and Muslims.
Over the past seven years, 4,122 Thais have died in 7,439 acts of violence, of which 5,688 remain unsolved, the army's Special Intelligence Unit in Pattani said.
The emergency decree, put in place in late 2004, allows authorities special powers to make arrests without charges, detain suspects for weeks and immunity from prosecution.
The region of 2 million inhabitants was an independent Islamic sultanate until it was conquered by Bangkok about 200 years ago. Ethnic Malay Muslims have never wholly submitted to rule by the central government.