Thailand’s military leaders think a deadly bomb blast that ripped through central Bangkok on Monday was an attempt to “destroy the economy.” Meanwhile, the death toll continues to rise. Nineteen people were killed and more than a 120 were wounded after the bomb detonated outside a popular religious shrine during the evening rush hour.
Dashcam video footage, uploaded to social media, purportedly shows the moment the explosion happened.
The dead included at least 10 Thais, two Chinese and a Filipino. The identities of the remaining victims was unclear. Foreigners were also among the wounded, local media reported.
Defense Minister Prawit Wongsuwan told Reuters: “The perpetrators intended to destroy the economy and tourism, because the incident occurred in the heart of the tourism district.” He vowed to track down those behind the attack.
The blast detonated in the middle of the popular Chitlom commercial district, which is home to five-star hotels and several upscale shopping malls.
Eyewitnesses described seeing body parts, motorcycles and debris strewn across the street outside the Erawan Shrine, a Hindu sanctuary that is also popular with Buddhists. The area was packed with worshippers at the time of the blast.
“Whoever planted this bomb is cruel and aimed to kill,” said national police chief Somyot Poompummuang. “Planting a bomb there means they wanted to see a lot of people dead.”
No one immediately claimed responsibility for the blast, which follows a relatively quiet period in Thailand’s often-violent political past. Officials said it was unclear whether the bombing was politically motivated.
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha urged Bangkok residents to remain calm and not spread false rumors, as several foreign embassies warned their nationals to remain vigilant while in Thailand.
Within hours of Monday’s blast, a campaign around the hashtag #PrayforBangkok had been tweeted almost 360,000 times.
“I feel very sad and sorry that this has happened to Thai people….I’m scared,” said Panupan Chansing, an employee of a nearby hotel, who heard the explosion and ran to see what had happened.
Many people rushed to give blood at local hospitals following requests by local media. Others volunteered as translators for foreigners injured in the bombing.
In recent years, the Thai capital has been the center of anti-government protests that saw tens of thousands of people take to the streets for weeks on end, calling on former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra to step down. The army eventually stepped in and ousted her government. The military has ruled the country since May 2014.
In February, two small pipe bombs exploded outside a luxury shopping mall in the same area of Bangkok.
But larger bombs are more frequently used in southern Thailand, where a Muslim separatist insurgency has been waged for several years.
mm/kms (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)