Bangkok shrine bombing

Thai authorities have let down victims of Bangkok bombing by declaring case is closed

Sweeping the matter under the rug will only embolden those still free and other extremists determined to carry out further attacks

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 28 November, 2015, 12:02am
UPDATED : Saturday, 28 November, 2015, 12:02am

Thai authorities have made clear that the case into the bombing of the Erawan Shrine in central Bangkok last August that killed 20 tourists, two of them from Hong Kong, is closed. Two Uygur men from Xinjiang (新疆) appeared in a military court this week charged with 10 counts including murder, police have given themselves the US$84,000 reward money and investigators have declared that their work is done. Yet 14 suspects are still free and a host of questions remain unanswered. To end the inquiry now does not properly provide justice for the relatives of those who died and the 120 who were injured and invites more such attacks.

Police contend the bombing was revenge for a crackdown on human trafficking, despite providing no evidence. They have dismissed suggestions that the attack was related to the repatriation back to China the previous month of 109 Uygurs who had been on their way to Turkey. The Turkish government has been critical of China’s treatment of Muslims in Xinjiang and has said it would welcome their migration. Of those killed, 17 were ethnic Chinese, as were many of the injured.

Officials have been careful not to label the bombing as terrorism. Their concern may lie in use of the word scaring off tourists; tourism accounts for 10 per cent of Thailand’s annual GDP, and has been in decline since the military seized power in a coup in May last year. The shrine is one of Bangkok’s most popular tourist attractions.

There has never been a claim for the bombing, so the motive remains unknown. The two men charged have confessed, but what they admitted to has not been made public. Police have closed the case despite having named other suspects and say that it can be opened again if any are arrested. That is not what victims and their relatives want to hear and also poses risks for Thais and tourists alike. By not pursuing suspects and exhausting all leads, those still free and other extremists could be emboldened to carry out more attacks.