A bomb blast in strife-torn southern Thailand has hurt 12 people, including an Australian photographer, the first foreign journalist to fall victim to separatist violence in the country.
Bangkok-based Time magazine photographer Philip Blenkinsop told The Australian yesterday he had a lucky escape after a roadside bomb detonated outside a village in Yala province.
''I've just had a brief flying lesson,'' he said. ''My ear hurts and I look like I've been hit in the face with a porcupine but I don't think its anything serious.''
Blenkinsop said he was accompanying a group of police, rescue workers and local reporters to a site near Maung village, where a Thai health worker had earlier been shot dead execution-style by suspected Islamic rebels.
The victim, named as Pratep Srimai, 44, had been shot in the head and his body dumped on a motorcycle sidecar, which had been set alight. Police believe the insurgents had buried a 10kg bomb near the motorbike, set with a timer, in the hope of killing security forces arriving to investigate Pratep's death.
''We were about 4m away (from the body), then everything went white and I thought, 'This is it','' Blenkinsop, 42, said.
''It blew me off my feet. Thank god there were no nails in it, or shrapnel. Other people were closer but I got the worst of it. It's sod's law.''
Blenkinsop was one of several rushed to the Yala hospital after the blast, but all had minor injuries and were released shortly after.
Since 2004, more than 2200 people have been killed in the violence centred on three border provinces.
Blenkinsop started his career on The Sunday Times in Perth, before working for The Australian in Sydney, then moving to Bangkok in 1989.
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