Bangkok Bombings: Motives, Impacts, Responses

20 August 2015

PHNOM PENH (Khmer Times) – Bangkok was rocked by a brutal and horrific bomb attack on Monday at the Erawan shrine, a popular tourist attraction. The bomb went off during rush-hour, at around 7 pm local time. The attack killed 20 and injured scores. 
Less than 24 hours after the Erawan bombing, another explosion took place near the Saphan Taksin pier in Bangkok. Fortunately, no one was injured since the TNT-filled pipe bomb landed in the water. Local authorities believe the two attacks are related. 
The Thai government called the bombings the “worst ever” attacks on Thai soil with the aim the sabotage Thai economy, especially tourism. 
Who are behind the attacks? 
Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha said Tuesday: “As for the reports that the motive may be driven by politics or international issues, I don’t want to comment on any particular report, because it may lead the investigation into a wrong way. And if it turns out to be false, it would only cause panic.” 
There are three main theories behind the attacks. 
1) They may be linked to the separatist movement and insurgency in the Southern part of Thailand. Separatist violence has claimed the lives of thousands of people. However, violent activities are mainly confined to the three Muslim-majority provinces, namely Patani, Yala, and Narathiwat.  
2) The attacks may be linked to certain elements of the Red Shirt Movement, which oppose the military regime. But, it is not the style of Thai domestic politics to orchestrate such anti-government attacks. On Wednesday, speaking to Sky News, Jatuporn Prompan, leader of the Red Shirt Movement, denied any involvement in the bombings.

Since 2006, after Thaksin Sinawatra was ousted by a military coup, Thai politics have been deeply polarized. They have been dominated by the political rivalry between the Red Shirts and Yellow Shirts, between the Bangkok elites and the rural poor in the Northeast. Today, Thailand’s political outlook remains gloomy and highly uncertain. 
3) Some argue that the attacks may be linked with the Uighur ethnic group. Last month, the Thai government forcefully repatriated almost 100 Uighurs to China. It triggered anti-Thailand protests in Ankara, Turkey. The Thai consulate in Istanbul was ransacked. But there are no clues or evidence linking the attacks to Uighur movements. 
What are the impacts?
Besides human casualties, the bombing created a shockwave across the country and the region. Thailand’s tourism industry is immediately threatened, with 23 countries issuing  travel advisories. Tourism accounts for 10 percent of GDP and is the one sector credited with lifting up Thailand’s economy after a decade of political turmoil. 
The attacks have multiplier effects on other economic sectors. Talking to CNBC, ANZ Bank warned: “In an environment of uncertainty, sentiment and confidence channels will be more adversely affected and this could send negative multiplier effects through key services and expenditure channels.”
What are the responses?
Following the twin bomb blasts in central Bangkok, the Thai government has taken measures to identifiy the perpetrators and their accomplices and to demonstrate its control over the situation.
One day after the incident, Mr. Prayuth stated: “They may be doing it for a political motives, or to undermine the economy or tourism, or for other reasons. The government will investigate and find the perpetrators and their accomplices as soon as possible.” 
After analysing CCTV footage and other hard evidence, Thai authorities concluded that the main suspect was a man wearing a yellow shirt who dropped his black backpack on a bench at the Erawan shrine. 
On Wednesday, Thai police released a sketch of the man. Whether the suspect was local or foreign is still unknown. Thai Police Chief Somyot Poompanmoung said that the attack was carried out by a network.

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