There are ominous signs that a sustained bombing campaign targeted at the tourist industry may be underway as a second explosives attack takes place in Bangkok. The Bangkok Post reports that a “bomb” was thrown at the Sathorn Pier, bouncing into the water and exploding without causing any injuries. While the pier is still open, police, who converged swiftly on the scene, have closed Sathorn Road. Divers are working to recover any existing fragments of the device.
There are conflicting accounts as to what the explosive device actually was. Some news outlets, including The Telegraph, are saying that it might have been a grenade. Transport Minister Prajin Juntong, however, has been quoted as saying that the bomb was an Improvised Explosive Device or IED. Grenades are known to have been used in past attacks attributed to the anti-government Redshirt movement, but they are also known for attacking with IEDs, especially small pipe bombs. The mass-casualty bombing in Bangkok on Monday involved a pipe bomb.
The bomb landed in a canal near a footbridge providing access to the pier. The explosion threw up a plume of water more than 10 meters high, causing people nearby to scatter in panic.
Sathorn Pier is a popular tourist destination, and a common starting point for pleasure trips along Bangkok’s famous Chao Praya river. It is thought that the bomber wished to throw the device onto a popular walking platform but missed. Local police said that the explosion could have been much worse, with the bomb almost certain to have caused multiple casualties if it had not bounced off the pier and into the water.
The attack came shortly after 1:20 p.m. local time, shortly after CCTV images of the suspect in Monday’s bombing were released. The suspect, who authorities say is known to them, is said to be a part of an “anti-government group from the Northeast,” a region that is known to be the heartland of the pro-Shinawatra Redshirts movement.
While there are as yet no confirmed links between this attack and the bombing of the Erewan Shrine on Monday, two attacks in Bangkok on two popular tourist sites in as many days seems to suggest that this is possible. Hong Kong authorities have advised its citizens to avoid travel to Thailand. Australia’s Prime Minister Tony Abbott, on the other hand, made an announcement encouraging Australians to continue to travel to the country, one of its most popular tourist destinations. This announcement was made before the news of this second bombing attack in Bangkok was reported.
National Police Chief Somyot Pumpunmuang has confirmed that the two bombings are connected. It appears that he is partly basing this on the similarities between the devices – both contained TNT and both were pipe bombs. Somyot says that police believe the Bangkok bombings to be the work of a group, some of whom are foreigners. The news is being with scepticism from some in the international community, with many analysts suspicious of the the speed with which these investigative breakthroughs have been achieved. Thailand’s security services are not general known for their efficiency and have a dark reputation for frame-ups, being believed to routinely invent ‘anti-royal’ attacks in order to round up political opposition figures. For many Thailand watchers, the promises of swift retribution and early hints at a Redshirt connection smack of just such a frame-up.
[Image via CCTV/Bangkok Post]