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Hunt for Bangkok bombers begins

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Hunt for Bangkok bombers begins
The Nation / Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: Security will be heightened across the country following double explosions in Bangkok’s shopping district on Sunday night as police hunt for at least two culprits believed to have been recorded on surveillance cameras.

Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha and Deputy Premier and Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwan implied yesterday that martial law would need to be retained following the incident – the first case of blasts in the capital since the coup last May.

“I have ordered security to be tightened because this case involves the well-being of the people,” the prime minister told reporters before leaving for Nakhon Ratchasima province yesterday. “There are still bad people disrupting the peace. We must find ways to severely punish them.”

Prawit, meanwhile, warned of stepped up security across the country. “We will strictly enforce security across the country. We need to have high security checks in some areas,” he said.

“We can’t say for now who is behind this. It could be people who have bad intentions, or are linked to politics or people who think differently,” the defence minister said.

Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam said yesterday that the government would still need martial law to maintain peace even if the Sunday’s blasts did not happen.

The business sector, meanwhile, voiced concern yesterday over possible impacts on investor confidence and tourism. They called for an explanation from the authorities as to why such an incident took place at a time the country was under martial law.

Police investigators did not rule out politics or terrorism as possible motives for the incident, national police chief Pol General Somyot Poompanmoung said yesterday.

The two bombs exploded on an elevated walkway connecting the BTS Siam station and the upscale Siam Paragon shopping mall. Two people were slightly hurt.

The two devices, detonated with a digital wristwatch, were timed to explode about 30 seconds apart, Somyot said.

Security-camera footage showed two possible suspects near where the pipe bombs exploded but police have not identified them.

Deputy national police chief Pol General Jakthip Chaichinda said investigators believed at least two people were responsible for planting the bombs, adding that they expected to cause injuries or even deaths.

Orange bag left before blast

CCTV footage showed the suspects left an orange bag at a spot before an explosion, he said.

Jakthip said he expected police to issue arrest warrants for the two suspects this week. He added that about 90 per cent of bomb attacks in Bangkok were politically motivated although it remained unclear if that was the case for the latest incident.

Both police and the military yesterday condemned the attack, deemed to be aimed at innocent people.

An academic warned of increased violence and described the incident on Sunday as a move to test the junta’s power following the recent verdict by the National Legislative Assembly to impeach former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra.

Thitinan Pongsudhirak, a political science lecturer at Chulalongkorn University, yesterday expressed his concerns over the incident.

“The bomb is in defiance of martial law and military rule. It is the first event to break the post-coup calm and stability,” he told The Nation.

“It coincides with the consequent tension from Yingluck’s impeachment. It is likely to exacerbate the situation,” he said.

Panitan Wattanayagorn, an adviser to Prawit, said he expected martial law to still be in place following the incident.

“According to the deputy premier, there will be no changes in the use of martial law at the moment,” he said in an interview.

As for Prayut’s reaction, Panitan said the premier had been informed about the drama since very beginning and had ordered authorities in charge to investigate.

— Phuket Gazette Editors

 

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