Muslims begin Ramadan fast; bombs hit Thai south
Jakarta: Muslims began fasting for the start of the Ramadan holy month on Friday in Indonesia and Thailand, where the sombre occasion was marred by two bomb blasts that killed one person and injured seven, officials said.
The Muhammadiyah group, Indonesia's second-largest Muslim organization, told its 30 million followers that Ramadan starts today.
The government, however, declared the official start as tomorrow when most of the remaining 190 million Indonesians will begin the dawn-to-dusk fast.
Muslims in Buddhist-dominated Thailand also began Ramadan today, while India, Pakistan, Malaysia and Bangladesh will start tomorrow or Sunday.
The Muslim holy month devoted to dawn-to-dusk fasting, prayers and good deeds culminates with the three-day holiday of Eid al-Fitr.
Muslims believe God revealed the first verses of the Quran to the Prophet Muhammad during Ramadan, which starts with the sighting of the new moon. The Muslim lunar calendar moves back through the seasons, so Ramadan starts 11 days earlier each year under the Western calendar.
The holy month started ominously in southern Thailand, the region where most Thai Muslims live and where an insurgency has claimed thousands of lives. The car bombing started fires at shops and residences and sent black smoke wafting from a row of four-storey buildings in a commercial area of Sungai Kolok in Narathiwat province.
Seven people were injured, including four who were briefly trapped on the roof of a burning building, said police Col Maitree Chimcherd. He said Muslim insurgents hid the homemade bomb in a pickup truck parked in front of a computer store.
Last night, a roadside bomb killed a villager and wounded his companion while they were hunting for squirrels in the woods in Yala province, said police Col Wichai Jaengsakul.
Still, residents of Narathiwat, Yala and Pattani provinces flocked to local markets today to shop for fresh and dried fruit including date palm to be consumed at dusk after the first day of fasting ends.
The start of Ramadan varies because Muslim countries and groups use different ways of calculating when the new moon crescent is sighted.