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Avoid southern Thailand, Malaysians told

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PHNOM PENH: The Malaysian government has issued a travel warning against Malaysians going to southern Thailand following the bomb blasts in Hat Yai and Yala, which killed five people, including a Malaysian, and injured more than 100 others on Saturday.

Twenty-seven Malaysians were among those injured, while one was still reported missing, Foreign Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Anifah Aman said yesterday.

Anifah said Malaysians were strongly advised against travelling to the region for the time being.

"This is our concern. Our advice to Malaysians is, if you do not have anything really important, please avoid travelling there until the situation improves.

"If there are no important engagements, meetings or dealings, please avoid southern Thailand."

Anifah said so far only one Malaysian -- Low Thian Hock, 46, of Bukit Mertajam, Penang, was confirmed killed in the 2pm (Malaysian time) bombing.

Of the 27 Malaysians injured, 17 were given outpatient treatment. Ten, who suffered between 30 and 50 per cent burns, respiratory-related injuries and breathing problems, were admitted to three hospitals in Hat Yai.

However, five of them -- K. Sagunthala, 34, Mini Ng, 35, and sisters Chiaw Pui Pui, 34, Chiaw Pui Hoon, also 34, and Chiaw Pui See, 33 -- were discharged yesterday.

Lew Kim Lai, 39, Lim Hock Bee, 37, Wong Sze Ee, 32, and Fook Hock Chuan, also 33, are warded at the Songkhla Nagarind Hospital, while Choo Kok Boon, 46, is at the Rajyindee Hospital.

Anifah said their condition were being monitored.

Asked if those injured would be sent back, he said: "At this stage, it is not advisable to move them to Malaysia because what they need is urgent treatment and attention.

"I don't think the doctors (in Hat Yai) will recommend that they be moved for now. At this point of time which is critical, they should get treatment there."

On the Malaysian still reported missing, he said: "One Malaysian is still missing and there is one body still unidentified. By tomorrow, we should know the results as they are still doing the DNA test."

Anifah also said initial findings by the Thai authorities revealed that the bombs were placed on two motorcycles, in a car and a pick-up truck.

"When the explosion occurred at Hat Yai, the initial reaction was that it was caused by a gas leak. But when authorities seized the pick-up truck, they detected bomb residues. That is the initial report we got from the Thai authorities," he told Malaysian journalists covering the 20th Asean Summit here yesterday.

He also said Thai authorities had given an assurance that they would pay for the medical expenses of all Malaysians injured in the incident.

Anifah also said all family members of victims had been informed.

He said they could contact the Malaysian consulate general office in Songkhla at +6674 311062, +6674 316 274 or fax their queries to +6674 324 004.

Anifah said the hotel where the bomb occurred -- Lee Gardens Plaza Hotel -- was popular not only among Malaysians but also Singaporeans.

He said he would discuss the bombing incidents with his Thai counterpart.

"I want to know what kind of assurance he can give our people and those from Asean. I will also ask him whether it is safe for Malaysians to travel to southern Thailand."

In Hat Yai, Malay-sian consul-general Mohd Aini Atan said Malaysians who were in the region should either cut short their visit or avoid popular places like shopping complexes or karaoke lounges.

"This is just a temporary measure and I believe everyone can understand our concern for their safety."

Meanwhile, it was reported that the bomb blast would cost Hat Yai's tourism at least 1 billion baht (about RM100 million) in losses.

Some 60 per cent of the city's hotel rooms, which had been fully booked, were cancelled.

Despite this, Hat Yai tourism players have decided to go ahead with plans to hold the three-day Songkran festival from April 12.

Last Saturday's bombing was not the first time Hat Yai had been targetted.

In April 2005, a bomb exploded at the airport, killing four people.

In September 2006, a series of explosions occurred but there were no Malaysian casualties. By Hamidah Atan

Security is tight at the Lee Gardens Plaza Hotel in Hat Yai yesterday following Saturday’s bomb blast.


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