Bombings rock Thai tourist resorts, but culprits, motives remain unknown

Source:Reuters Published: 2016/8/13 0:13:40

A series of blasts hit three of the most popular tourist resorts as well as towns in southern Thailand on Thursday and Friday, killing four people and wounding dozens, days after the country voted to accept a military-backed charter in a referendum.

An investigator collects evidence from the crime scene where a small bomb exploded in Hua Hin on Friday. A string of bomb attacks targeting Thailand's crucial tourism industry have killed four people, sending authorities scrambling to identify a motive and find the perpetrators. Photo: AFP

Four bombs exploded in the upscale resort of Hua Hin, about 200 kilometers south of Bangkok on Thursday evening and Friday morning, killing two people and wounding at least 24.

Other blasts hit the tourist island of Phuket, a resort town in Phang Nga province, and Surat Thani, a city that is the gateway to islands such as Koh Samui in Thailand's Gulf.

Hua Hin is home to the Klai Kangwon royal palace, which translates as "Far from Worries Palace," where King Bhumibol Adulayadej, the world's longest reigning monarch, and his wife, Queen Sirikit, have often stayed in recent years, until both were hospitalized.

Friday was a public holiday in Thailand to mark the queen's birthday, which is celebrated as Mother's Day.

No group has claimed responsibility, though suspicion could fall on groups fighting an insurgency in Muslim-majority provinces in southern Thailand.

Police had intelligence an attack was imminent, but had no precise information on location or timing, national police chief Chakthip Chaijinda told reporters in Bangkok on Friday.

"We just didn't know which day something would happen," he said.

Since Sunday's referendum on the constitution, there have been attacks in seven provinces using improvised explosive devices and firebombs, Chakthip said.

The devices were similar to those used by separatist insurgents in southern Thailand, but that did not conclusively show they were the perpetrators, he said.

Police ruled out any links to international terrorism, as did Thailand's Foreign Ministry, which said in a statement on Friday that "The incident is not linked to terrorism but is an act of stirring up public disturbance."

Thai authorities beefed up security at tourism spots, airports and on public transport in Bangkok, while Thai junta chief and Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha expressed frustration about the motives for the attacks. "Why now when the country is getting better, the economy is getting better, and tourism is getting better? We have to ask why and who did it," he said.

The attacks are bad news for Thailand's tourist sector, which has been one of the few bright spots in a sluggish economy. Tourism accounts for about 10 percent of gross domestic product and Thailand was expecting a record 32 million visitors this year.

Australia issued a travel advisory saying Australians should "exercise a high degree of caution" and warned that "Further explosions in any part of Thailand are possible."

Two blasts on Friday morning in Hua Hin came after twin explosions on Thursday. One of those was near a bar in a narrow alley in the town late on Thursday, killing one Thai woman and wounding 21 people, Krisana said.

Ten of those injured in the Hua Hin blasts were foreigners, Krisana said, and eight of them were women.

The two explosions in Hua Hin late on Thursday were detonated by a mobile device, police said. The first took place 20 minutes earlier and about 50 meters from the second, but injured nobody.

Such twin blasts are common in the three Muslim-majority southernmost provinces of Thailand, where a long-running insurgency intensified in 2004.

Posted in: Asia-Pacific

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