Thai police were reported to have detained two people for questioning on Saturday after a series of bomb blasts ripped through several tourism areas in southern Thailand, killing four people and injuring 30 others on Friday.
In all, 11 small bombs exploded across five southern provinces on Thursday night and Friday morning. The explosions hit Hua Hin, Surat Thani, Patong and Trang. Three Germans, three Italians, three Dutch nationals and an Austrian were among those injured.
In Hua Hin, the bombs appear to have been hidden in flowerpots on the footpath. While it’s still unclear who carried out attacks, authorities are downplaying suggestions that Muslim separatists or organised terror groups could be behind it.
The attacks came ahead of a long weekend celebrating the Queen’s birthday, a special time for Thais. They happened just days after a referendum approved a new constitution giving more power to the military Government.
Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha suggested political opponents of the military junta could be responsible.
“This incident will remind all Thais that there are still people with ill intentions in the country,” he said.
“There are people who’ve tried to stir up a situation before the referendum day, and again on this important day for Thais.”
The US, Britain and Australia were among countries to issue travel warnings to their nationals.
Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) issued the following advisory update:
A number of small bombs have detonated in multiple locations throughout Thailand on 11-12 August causing a number of deaths and injuries. Some of these explosions have occurred in locations frequented by tourists including in Hua Hin, Surat Thani and Patong, Phuket.
Further explosions in any part of Thailand are possible. You should avoid affected areas, monitor local media and follow the instructions of local authorities. The level of our advice has not changed. We continue to advise Australians to exercise a high degree of caution in Thailand. Higher levels apply in some parts of the country.
The bomb blasts were coordinated, indicating the same group was behind all. The first and worst attack happened in Hua Hin, 200 kilometres south of Bangkok. Twin blasts there killed two people and wounded at least 23 others.
Hua Hin is popular with the Thai royal family (the royal summer palace is located there) and it is also popular with tourists.
Soon afterwards, explosions struck Patong beach on the island of Phuket, then two blasts in the southern town of Surat Thani and one blast in Trang. The final two killed one victim each.
ABC News quoted Thai police chief General Chakthip Chaijinda saying: “There may be a group that disagrees with [the new constitution] and attempted to discredit stability and tarnish confidence in the tourists.”
A quick survey of tourists carried out by the Bangkok Post after the blasts indicates that tourists are not being deterred. An American woman told the paper the bombings were “very unfortunate” but such things were “so common thee days” they could happen anywhere in the world. That view appeared to be shared by others as well.
Written by Peter Needham