Thailand seeks answers after bomb attack on shrine | News | DW | 18.08.2015
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Thailand seeks answers after bomb attack on shrine

Experts in Bangkok have been sifting through debris after at least 21 people were killed and scores wounded in a blast said to have targeted foreigners. Officials say the attack has not yet been linked to any group.

Thailand's national police chief said the bomb had been placed and timed to cause the maximum fatalities possible.

"Those who have planted this bomb are cruel," said Somyot Poompummuang. "They aim to kill because everyone knows that at 7 p.m. the shrine is crowded with Thais and foreigners. Planting a bomb there means they want to see a lot of dead people."

Thailand's Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon told reporters the bombing appeared to have been intended to cause economic damage, being placed at the heart of the capital's tourism district near five-star hotels and upscale shopping malls. However, he said it was unclear who had carried out the attack.

"We still don't know for sure who did this and why," Prawit told reporters. "We are not sure if it is politically motivated, but they aim to harm our economy and we will hunt them down.

Three Chinese were among the dead, according to China's official Xinhua news agency. Two Hong Kong residents, two people from Malaysia and one person from the Philippines had also been killed, officials said. Many of those who were wounded were said to have come from China and Taiwan, with the site being a major attraction to visitors from across East Asia.

Tourism accounts for about 10 percent of Thailand's economy, although the sector took a downturn in 2014 amid months of street protests and violence, as well as a military coup that followed.

'Not in keeping with the south'

Thai forces have been fighting a low-level insurgency by Muslim rebels in the southern three provinces of the predominantly Muslim country. Since 2004, more than 6,500 people, most of them civilians, have been killed in violence there. However, Royal Thai Army chief General Udomdej Sitabutr cast doubt on those insurgents being behind the attack.

"This does not match with incidents in southern Thailand," he said. "The type of bomb used is also not in keeping with the south."

The intersection near the shrine was the site of months of anti-government protests in 2010. Dozens died in a military crackdown and a shopping center was set ablaze.

Two pipe bombs exploded outside a shopping mall in the same area in February, leading to a ratcheting up of security - although the explosions caused little damage. Police said that attack was aimed at raising tension after a 2014 coup that saw the city placed under martial law.

rc/cmk (Reuters, AP)

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