Thai bombings: police arrest two men over coordinated attacks

Government says perpetrators attempted ‘to create chaos and confusion’ but that terrorism was not behind the fatal explosions

Police in Thailand have arrested two men over multiple blasts that targeted a central bar district and clock tower in the seaside resort of Hua Hin.

At least four people were killed when a succession of bombs hit five separate provinces on Thursday and Friday in coordinated strikes that authorities said were set up to cause chaos across the nation. Improvised explosive devices and fire bombs were used, police said.

Thirty-four people were wounded, including 10 European tourists, mostly in Hua Hin. They included three Germans, three Italians, an Austrian and three Dutch citizens.

No group claimed the attacks but the government said it had ruled out international terrorism without further details on who was behind the blasts, which appeared to target normally peaceful tourist areas. The ministry of foreign affairs announced the incident was “not linked to terrorism but is an act of stirring up public disturbance.”

Phuket’s Patong beach, a major seaside and bar strip, was also hit on Friday. In Hua Hin, about 200km (125 miles) south of the capital Bangkok, a street food seller and municipality worker were killed.

The UK Foreign Office asked its citizens to “exercise extreme caution, avoid public places and follow the advice of local authorities.”

A 12-year insurgency in the south of the country has killed more than 6,000 people but militants have never targeted tourists and violence has been limited to provinces further south than areas hit in this week’s strikes.

Resentment in other sectors of society has also been growing against the military junta, which wrestled power from the elected government of Yingluck Shinawatra in 2014.

Military chief and self-installed prime minister, Prayut Chan-o-cha, has promised elections but not until next year. Last week, the junta won a country-wide referendum that entrenches its power in government even if a civilian administration returns to high office.

Supporters of Shinawatra and her brother Thaksin, who also served as prime minister until 2006 when the military ousted him, have been arrested and questioned by the army during its rule, causing outcries from civil rights groups.

The timings of the attacks, on a national holiday for Queen Sirikit’s birthday, has also been flagged as significant by analysts. The military has promoted itself as the champion of the much-revered monarchy.

Hua Hin, normally full of Thai and foreign tourists, holds a large palace that King Bhumibol Adulyadej and his family use as a retreat. The two bombs on Friday morning that detonated at the clock tower were placed behind a large portrait of the king and queen.

A woman drives by the aftermath of the double bomb attack in Hua Hin.
A woman drives by the aftermath of the double bomb attack in Hua Hin. Photograph: Lillian Suwanrumpha/AFP/Getty Images

Hanz Yonah, a 55-year-old Swedish man and permanent resident of Hua Hun, told the Guardian the attacks will seriously dent arrivals of foreign tourists, an industry that almost every business in the town survives on.

“People are scared. Shaking. There are bars all along these roads but the owners have their kids living there,” he said.

The attacks come a few days before the one-year anniversary of a devastating bomb in Bangkok that killed 22 people, and dented Thailand’s reputation as a global tourism hub. No group claimed that attack.

The UN World Tourism Organisation said it will continue to hold official World Tourism Day celebrations in Bangkok next month.

“This is the best expression of support and union against these hideous attacks,” said UNWTO Secretary-General Taleb Rifai.

Prime minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said this week’s bombs were an “attempt to create chaos and confusion.”

“This tragic incident will serve as a constant reminder to the Thai people that there are some malicious people in our society and in Thailand, who have perpetrated these acts since before our referendum day and now on one of the most important days for our nation,” he added later in a televised address on Friday evening.


Oliver Holmes in Hua Hin, Thailand and agencies

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Thai police arrest notorious wildlife trafficking suspect
Exclusive: Boonchai Bach allegedly ran tusk and horn smuggling route from Africa

Oliver Holmes

20, Jan, 2018 @6:00 AM

Article image
Amnesty calls off launch of Thai torture report after police warning
Rights group was told staff could be arrested over visas if public launch of report accusing soldiers and police went ahead

Oliver Holmes in Bangkok

28, Sep, 2016 @7:37 AM

Article image
Thai police hunt one man in confusing inquiry into bombings
Police unsure if Ahama Lengha is in country, as enigmatic government statements suggest chaotic investigation

Oliver Holmes and agencies in Bangkok

19, Aug, 2016 @10:59 AM

Article image
Thai police pay themselves £55,000 reward for bombing arrest
Multi-millionaire police chief hands reward to his men that he says came from him and ‘businessmen friends’

Oliver Holmes in Bangkok

31, Aug, 2015 @12:22 PM

Article image
Wings and a prayer: Thai Airways launches 'sacred' flight over Buddhist sites
Airline’s latest scheme to boost its income follows sale of bags made from life vests

Rebecca Ratcliffe South-east Asia correspondent

04, Nov, 2020 @7:34 AM

Article image
Thai police find foreign diver with throat cut and tied to post in sea
Doctor says death of a ‘westerner’ found wearing a wetsuit and flippers could have been suicide or caused by someone else

Oliver Holmes in Bangkok

19, Dec, 2016 @12:15 PM

Article image
Thai cave boys' heads shaved before ordination ceremony
Eleven enter temple for nine days to show thanks for rescue and honour navy Seal who died during operation

Hannah Ellis-Petersen

24, Jul, 2018 @1:19 PM

Article image
Thai government backs same-sex civil partnership bill
If bill is passed, Thailand would be first Asian country to recognise same-sex civil unions

Jamie Fullerton

27, Dec, 2018 @2:06 PM

Article image
Two parties claim right to lead after 'inconsistent' Thai elections
Worries over polling data as election commission refuses to declare official results

Hannah Ellis-Petersen in Bangkok

25, Mar, 2019 @1:26 PM

Article image
Thai protesters call for reform of monarchy and general strike
Thousands march to demand curbs on the power and budget of the royal family

Rebecca Ratcliffe in Bangkok

20, Sep, 2020 @1:42 PM