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Published on : Saturday, August 13, 2016
In the resort town of Hua Hin, four bombs exploded while several blasts hit the island of Phuket, a top tourist destination, all exploded within a 24-hour period on Thursday and Friday.
No group has claimed responsibility for the attacks, but suspicion is likely to fall on separatist insurgents. The timing is sensitive, as Friday is a holiday marking the queen’s birthday.
Hua Hin is about 200km (125 miles) from the capital Bangkok while the province of Phuket is in the far south.
Both places, as well as Phang Nga, are famous for their scenic beaches. Two bombs went off in front of police stations in Surat Thani within the space of half an hour.
Police said they had detained some suspects but ruled out international terrorism.
“Initial investigations reveal that two types of bombs were used, which are fire bombs and improvised explosive devices, or IEDs,” said Royal Thai Police Col Krisana Patanacharoen.
The bombings, he was quoted as saying by the media, followed a “similar pattern used in the southern parts of the country”.
According to a veteran journalist, if southern rebels are behind these attacks, it would mark a significant change of tactics. The 12-year conflict in the south has killed more than 6,000 people, but has never targeted tourists.
Foreign embassies have advised tourists to be vigilant. The UK Foreign Office has advised its citizens in tourist areas to “exercise extreme caution, avoid public places and follow the advice of local authorities”.
The country’s Muslim minority largely originates in the three southernmost provinces of Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat
Insurgents have been fighting since the early 2000s for an independent Islamic state modelled on the old Malay sultanate of Pattani
Security forces, government workers and local Buddhist communities have been targeted in drive-by shootings, bombings and beheadings
The violence has been largely confined to the south
The Thai military and pro-government vigilantes have been accused of a heavy-handed response, including the torture and execution of prisoners
The attacks have clearly attempted to strike at Thailand’s crucial tourism sector.
The Thais call it [Hua Hin] a white town because there’s so many expatriates who live here. There’s a large expat community so the local feeling is, from expats and also from Thais, that this is designed to have maximum impact and damage internationally as the choice of Hua Hin is also symbolic, as it is known as a royal city and the king’s favoured residence outside Bangkok.
This comes just days before the one-year anniversary of a bomb blast at the Erawan shrine in Bangkok that killed 20 people. The motive has still not been established.
Last week, Thais voted in a referendum which approved a new constitution that will strengthen the military’s influence in politics for many years to come.