Thai police ‘know who was behind’ tourist town bombings

hua-hin-blast2BANGKOK: Thai police said Sunday they “know who was behind” a recent wave of bombings that rattled tourist destinations across the south, shattering a surface calm imposed by the kingdom’s military junta.

No one has claimed responsibility for at least 11 small explosives and series of suspected arson attacks that ripped across core tourist hubs Thursday night and Friday morning, killing four locals and wounding dozens, including European tourists.

The bombs, most of them detonated in twin blasts, struck holiday resorts during a long weekend, including the seaside town of Hua Hin and the island of Phuket.

“Our investigation is progressing. We know who was behind it,” deputy police spokesman Piyapan Pingmuang told AFP Sunday.

He repeated the military government’s stance that a domestic group was behind the coordinated attacks but refused to provide further details.

“I reaffirm that it was an act of local sabotage, not terrorism. We do not have terrorism in Thailand,” he said.

Two people have been detained for questioning in Hua Hin — rocked by four bombs — and one arrest warrant has been issued over a suspected arson attack in Nakhon Si Thammarat province, the spokesman said.

Thai authorities have not provided a possible motive behind the assault, but officials have been quick to downplay speculation that it was the work of Muslim rebels fighting a long-running insurgency against state troops further south.

The conflict zone — the only Muslim-majority area in Buddhist Thailand — sees regular bombings and shootings, but the violence rarely leaks outside the three provinces bordering Malaysia.

The recent blasts, many of them detonated in pairs by mobile phones, came as an affront to a junta that prides itself on bringing a measure of stability to Thailand since its 2014 power grab.

The kingdom has weathered a decade of political turmoil amid a bitter power struggle.

The conflict broadly pits ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra and his rural supporters against a Bangkok-based elite that backed his ouster in 2006 and the recent coup that toppled his sister’s administration.

The recent blasts came only days after the junta won a referendum vote on a new charter it drafted.

The document, which the Shinawatra clan opposed and said would make Thailand less democratic, was approved by voters living in the bomb-hit provinces.

The only regions to reject it were the Shinawatra strongholds in the north and northeast, plus the three insurgent-torn provinces in the deep south.

Rights groups said the junta’s harsh bans on campaigning ahead of the poll prevented it from being a free and fair vote.