Bombings stun Bangkok on New Year's Eve - East Valley Tribune: Nation / World

Bombings stun Bangkok on New Year's Eve

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Posted: Monday, January 1, 2007 2:41 am | Updated: 5:59 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

BANGKOK, Thailand - Thailand's prime minister said Monday that ousted politicians rather than Muslim insurgents were likely behind the bombings that killed three people and canceled New Year's Eve festivities for thousands of revelers.

The nine bombs that exploded across Bangkok on New Year's Eve and early Monday also wounded 38 people, including nine foreigners.

The bombings capped a year of unrest in Thailand, including a military coup three months ago and an increasingly violent Muslim insurgency in the south. Nobody has claimed responsibility for the attacks.

"From the evidence we have gathered, there is a slim chance that it is related to the southern insurgency. It is likely related to people who lost their political benefits," Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont told a press conference, referring to the ousted regime of Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

Thaksin, now in exile abroad, was toppled in a bloodless coup headed by a group of generals who later appointed Surayud as interim prime minister until elections set for October 2007. But he still enjoys widespread support.

"The people who carried out the bombings were ill-intentioned people who want (the attacks) to have political impact. They want to create a scenario of a politically unstable Thailand," he said.

He said there were no intelligence reports that more bombings would occur.

Thaksin's lawyer, Noppadol Patama, was quoted on the Matichon newspaper's Web site as saying that Thaksin was in China, and not involved in the bombings.

Deputy national police chief Ajirawit Suphanaphesat said that the injured foreigners included four Hungarians, three Serbians and two British citizens. Two remained hospitalized.

"All I saw was what looked like a flash. My left ear just went out with the blast," said Paul Heewit of Horsham, England. "When I looked down, I saw blood on my shirt. I thought, `What the hell happened?'"

The 55-year-old retired flight attendant suffered a gash in his left arm where debris remains embedded. He said he was taken to a hospital, where the prime minister visited the injured, and has since been released.

The first six bomb blasts rocked Bangkok around 6 p.m. local time on New Year's Eve, killing at least two people and injuring more than 20. The small bombs - in some cases triggered by clocks and placed in garbage cans - went off within an hour of each other around the city.

Among the targets were a department store at the Victory Monument, near a vegetable market in the Klong Toey slum and a police post in the Saphan Kwai district.

A second round of bombs went off just after midnight in a phone booth, a hotel, and near a canal bridge in a downtown area thick with heavily visited hotels and shopping malls.

Police and army troops with assault rifles guarded some entertainment venues, mass transit stations and traffic circles. Roadblocks were set up on some streets. Hotels stepped up security, searching cars and canceling expensive New Year's Eve dinners.

Ajirawit, the deputy national police chief, said the bombs were made of ammonia nitrate placed in a metal box. "I believe the bombs were meant to injure and not kill people," he said.

He told reporters that security had been beefed up at 6,000 different locations across the city, but there were few signs of the bombings Monday morning and the presence of security forces was not evident.

Several foreign embassies, including that of the United States, have issued updated travel advisories, warning that the threat of terrorism was high and advising their citizens not to travel within Bangkok and to avoid mass gatherings.

"There is a possibility of further attacks in coming days," said a travel advisory from the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

The bombings came in the middle of a long holiday weekend during the peak tourist season in Bangkok, a city known for its easygoing, party-hearty spirit. Many tourists said they would not be deterred, and packed popular sites on New Year's Day like the Grand Palace.

The city has rarely experienced deadly bombings, although several small explosives were set off during recent political turmoil in an apparent attempt to create a sense of instability, not to cause casualties.

Initially, there were fears that the Muslim separatist insurgency had finally spread to Bangkok.

Bombings and shootings occur almost daily in Thailand's three southernmost provinces of Yala, Narathiwat and Pattani, where an Islamic insurgency that flared in January 2004 has killed more than 1,900 people.

The insurgents have carried out numerous attacks in the south, but are not known to have launched any in Bangkok.

On Monday morning, a small explosive was thrown at a mosque in the northern Thailand city of Chiang Mai, injuring a janitor working at the shrine, said police Maj. Gen. Bandop Sukhonman.

Bandop blamed local troublemakers for the attack and said it was unrelated to the string of bombings that hit Bangkok.

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