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Thailand's Junta

Won’t say or can’t say? Tight-lipped Thai police claim they know who ordered bomb attacks

Officers discover unexploded devices during investigation, as suspicion falls on political enemies of the ruling junta and insurgents from Muslim-majority provinces

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 14 August, 2016, 3:46pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 14 August, 2016, 11:26pm

A series of bombing and arson attacks in southern Thailand that killed four people and wounded dozens was orchestrated by a single person, Thai police said on Sunday, while a man has been arrested in relation to one of the attacks.

Blasts on Thursday and Friday targeted some of Thailand’s best-known tourist resorts, just days after Thais voted to accept a military-backed constitution that paves the way for an election at the end of 2017.

We know who
was behind it
Deputy police spokesman Piyapan Pingmuang

Subsequently, Thai police discovered unexploded bombs in three top tourist destinations as they searched for clues. Devices were found and defused on Sunday in two bomb-hit areas – the upscale beach town of Hua Hin and the popular island of Phuket, according to the interior ministry permanent secretary.

Police said other unexploded devices were found on Saturday in Phang Nga province.

“These acts were undertaken by a group in many areas simultaneously, following orders from one individual,” Pongsapat Pongcharoen, a deputy national police chief, told reporters.

Thailand’s deputy police spokesman Piyapan Pingmuang was more direct: “We know who was behind it”.

They gave no further details on who police believe was responsible for the attacks and no group has claimed them.

Analysts say suspicion would inevitably on fall on enemies of the ruling junta aggrieved by the referendum results, or insurgents from Muslim-majority provinces in the south of the mostly Buddhist country.

Thai tourist towns subdued as authorities hunt for bombers

Bombs went off on Thursday and Friday in the upscale resort of Hua Hin and beach destinations in the south including Phuket, Phang Nga and Surat Thani, a city that is the gateway to popular islands in the Gulf of Thailand.

The wave of attacks came as tourists flocked to the beaches at the start of a public holiday. Several attacks used incendiary devices that hit shops and markets in southern Thai provinces.

A man has been arrested and was being questioned in connection to an arson attack on a supermarket in the southern province of Nakhon Si Thammarat, Pongsapat said. Police believe more than one individual was involved in that attack, he said.

The movements of other suspects were being monitored, he added.

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In Phang Nga, two devices that authorities believe failed to go off were found on Saturday near a market that was torched in an attack early on Friday.

“One worked and the other two didn’t,” Phakaphong Tavipatana, the governor of Phang Nga, said, adding that police hoped to find fingerprints on the defused devices.

Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha has instructed the police to be thorough and cautious in their investigation, said Pongsapat, adding that police were “not catching scapegoats”.

Thai police have come under fire in the past over investigations into high profile cases, including the brutal murders of two British backpackers on a tourist island in 2014.

Fears that followers of former prime ministers Thaksin Shinawatra and his sister Yingluck Shinawatra, including an opposition movement sympathetic to the Shinawatras known as the “red shirts”, could be blamed prompted a senior figure in their Puea Thai Party to issue a sharp denial on Saturday.

For more than a decade Thailand has been divided between populist political forces led by Thaksin, who was toppled in a 2006 coup, and the royalist and military establishment, which accuses him of corruption.

His sister Yingluck swept to power in an election in 2011, before being ousted in another coup led by Prayuth in 2014.

At last Sunday’s referendum voters in Thaksin’s northeast stronghold voted to reject the constitution, which opponents of the junta said would entrench the military’s power and deepen divisions.

Thai junta strengthens its grip on power with new constitution but deep-seated divisions remain

Voters in three mostly Muslim southern provinces, where separatists have been fighting with the military for than a decade, also voted against the new constitution.

No evidence has been found yet to connect southern insurgents to the attacks, Pongsapat said, but DNA samples collected at the blast sites were being compared with databases in the southern Muslim provinces.

Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse