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Thailand: Tourists among 27 killed by bomb near Hindu shrine

18th Aug 2015
Thailand: Tourists among 27 killed by bomb near Hindu shrine

By Max Constant

BANGKOK (AA) – A powerful bomb that shook a Hindu sanctuary frequented by tourists in downtown Bangkok on Monday evening killed at least 27 people and injured 117 others, according to figures given by the Thai health ministry.

Local media reported that many Chinese tourists were among the injured.

The remote controlled device — constructed from five kilos of TNT — was hidden within the compound of the Erawan Shrine, which lies at the heart of Bangkok’s main commercial area, according to Thai police Chief General Somyot Pumpanmuang.

He added that two other bombs discovered attached to the capital’s elevated train system pylons were defused by bomb experts.

Had they gone off, both death toll and casualties would no doubt have been far higher.

General Prawit Wongsuwan, deputy-prime minister and defense minister, said that those behind the attack were clearly targeting foreign tourists.

“It is clear that those who did it wanted to destroy the economy and tourism of Thailand, because the attack took place in the heart of the business district,” he told the Bangkok Post.

With the Thai capital never previously experiencing such a large-scale explosion, junta leader-cum-Prime Minister General Prayuth Chan-ocha was forced to act to deny media speculation that he had restored the country to a state of emergency last experienced in the aftermath of last year’s coup.

Meanwhile, the world offered its condolences.

The United Nations Secretary-General issued a statement saying he was shocked to learn of the explosion in Bangkok and the loss of innocent civilians’ lives, while India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted: “I strongly condemn the blast in Bangkok. My thoughts are with the families of the deceased. I pray for a speedy recovery of the injured.”

No group has yet to claim responsibility.

With the military junta’s popularity declining with the country’s economic problems, a failure to sew up discontent with supporters of the overthrown government, and peace talks with southern insurgents at a standstill, the blame could lie in several areas.

The bomb could be linked to the Malay Muslim separatist insurgency in the far south of the country, which has seen over 6,500 people lose their lives since 2004.

A bomb attack last April on the tourist island of Koh Samui, in which several separatists were implicated, suggests that the rebellion was extending its area of operations.

Another possibility is that the bomb attack is related to the tense political situation in Bangkok.

The junta, which seized power from the elected government of Yingluck Shinawatra in May last year, is facing mounting resistance from some parts of the population because of restrictions on civil liberties.

Military leaders are also trying to introduce a constitution that would limit the power of elected politicians.

Members of a military, rival to General Chan-ocha’s group, are also said to be unhappy about the quasi-monopoly of the junta leaders comrades-in-arms on the commandments posts.

Elsewhere — although extremely unlikely — China’s top news website Sina tweeted #BangkokBlast targeted Chinese tourists, revenge on recent #Uighur case.

In July, Thailand deported 109 Uighur back to China, sparking anger in Turkey, home to a large Uighur diaspora, while feeding concern among rights groups and the United States that they could be mistreated upon their return.

* Anadolu Agency correspondents Mustafa Caglayan and Kaamil Ahmed contributed to this story from New York and Bangladesh, respectively.

 
 [Photo: Crime scene is seen after a bomb exploded outside a religious shrine in central Bangkok, Thailand on August 17, 2015. Photographer: Payen Guillaume/Anadolu Agency]

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