Wednesday, January 24, 2018
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Central Bangkok descended into chaos Monday evening when a bomb exploded at Ratchaprasong intersection, killing 20 people, including three foreigners, and injuring at least 125.

The explosion occurred about 7pm near the Brahmin statue at the Erawan Shrine on the intersection packed with evening rush-hour commuters and tourists, many of whom were visiting the shrine.

With a powerful flash caught on security video and a boom heard blocks away, the blast from the IED (improvised explosive device) scattered body parts across Rachaprasong intersection, spattered blood, blasted windows and burned motorbikes to the metal.

“Suddenly there was a big boom, and the whole room just shook, like someone dropped a wrecking ball on top of our ceiling,” said Pim Niyomwan, an English instructor working on the eighth floor of the building right next to the shrine. “The whole building just shook. My four students were hysterical.”

Police said the bomb was left on a bench beside the low fence of the shrine close to the intersection. Two objects suspected to be explosive devices were also discovered next to a nearby BTS station pillar near the shrine.

The national police chief, Pol Gen Somyot Pumpunmuang and others called it a vicious act meant to target helpless civilians but stopped short of labelling it “terrorism”. No one or group had claimed responsibility by Tuesday morning.

At least three foreign nationals were among the dead, according to the national police chief. China’s embassy in Bangkok said two Chinese nationals were killed, the Xinhua news agency reported.

On Tuesday morning, police revised the human toll from the bomb, citing some confusion at the scene, and deaths that occurred in hospitals among the badly wounded.

As of 8am Tuesday, the toll stood at 20 dead, including the two Chinese and one Filipino. Police said 125 were injured badly enough to need medical care, but did not provide a breakdown of Thai and foreign victims.

About seven of the bodies were collected from the shrine by Por Teck Tung rescue volunteers.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon was “shocked” to learn about the deadly explosion. He hopes that “those responsible will be brought to justice,” according to a statement from a UN spokesperson.

The United States, meanwhile, “condemns this deplorable act of violence,” National Security Council spokesman Ned Price said in a statement.

The US embassy in Bangkok issued an “emergency message” to Americans in Bangkok informing them of the blast.

“US Embassy personnel are liaising closely with local authorities to gather information,” it said. “US citizens are advised to avoid the area and monitor local media for updates.”

At least five motorcycles caught fire. Police denied the bomb had been planted in a motorcycle.

At 7.15pm, police closed the intersection to traffic to allow bomb disposal experts to get to the scene and rescue workers to move in. BTS trains to the area were immediately halted.

Police chief Somyot said the bomb at the shrine was improvised, with gunpowder stuffed inside a pipe, and detonated in a similar way to how a TNT device is set off.

“It was a barbaric act perpetrated during a busy time and the attack was meant to kill people,” he said, adding the device was capable of causing destruction within a 40-metre radius.

Several bodies with visible burns were seen at the intersection, which was littered with human remains and debris from the blast. Rescue workers administered first aid to the injured, who sustained deep wounds and lacerations, and took them to the nearby Police General Hospital.

Some of the injured were also rushed to Ramathibodi, Rajavithi, Phramongkutklao, Chulalongkorn, Klang, Bangkok Christian and Phayathai 1 hospitals.

The emergency room of the Police General Hospital, which sits across Ratchaprasong intersection, was swamped last night attending to people hurt in the blasts.

A staff member said about 20 people rushed to the hospital were in critical condition.

The blast was the third and biggest bomb attack since the military coup. The first was an explosion outside the Paragon shopping complex on Feb 1, in which one person was slightly injured. The second was at the Criminal Court on Ratchadaphisek Road on March 7, where there were no casualties.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha condemned the attack and ordered his deputy, Prawit Wongsuwon, to put security authorities on full alert, said Maj Gen Sansern Kaewkamnerd, a former deputy government spokesman.

He said Gen Prayut has ordered police, soldiers and city workers to inspect the blast scene and launch a thorough investigation.

According to Maj Gen Sansern, it is too early to speculate on the motive behind the blast but the government will take harsh action as it was a deliberate attempt to take people’s lives.

The prime minister urged the public to stay calm and not rush to share information about the bombing on social media, said Maj Gen Weerachon Sukhondhapatipak, deputy government spokesman.

Security authorities are reviewing the situation before deciding if the internal security law will be invoked, a source said.

The 1st Cavalry Battalion, King’s Guard, issued alerts for 10 potentially dangerous areas following the blast. They are Ratchaprasong intersection, Pathumwan intersection, Silom Road, Khao San Road, Narathiwat intersection, the Victory Monument, Tuek Chai Intersection, Benjasiri Park, Soi Thong Lor and Sukhumvit Road.

Gen Prawit said the explosion targeted the country’s tourism sector as the attackers intentionally launched an attack in a crowded area popular with tourists.

British ambassador Mark Kent warned Britons in Thailand to be vigilant and stay updated on travel advice.

Police and soldiers set up checkpoints and are patrolling areas which could be targets, Gen Prawit said. He insisted there was no indication at this stage that the bombing was politically motivated though Deputy Defence Minister and army chief Udomdej Sitabutr said an attack by elements with “different views” could not be ruled out.

“It is possible that another such incident could occur,” he added.

UPDATE: Paragon bombs ‘homemade’

Posted by pakin On February - 2 - 2015 ADD COMMENTS

Two improvised time bombs exploded in front of Siam Paragon shopping centre Sunday evening, slightly injuring a man, police said.

Paragon and other retail outlets in the Siam Square/Siam Center area were closed, roads were blocked and shoppers and diners were evacuated from the area.

Pol Lt Gen Prawut Thawornsiri, a police spokesman, said the bombs were hidden behind a transformer at BMA Express Service, between the Siam BTS station and the luxury mall.

“Two homemade bombs exploded on a walkway between Siam BTS (skytrain) and Siam Paragon mall. They were hidden behind electric controls,” said Pol Lt Gen Prawut.

The two improvised explosive devices (IEDs) were set on timers to explode at about 8pm, a peak time for shopping, entertainment and dining out in the Siam Square area. Despite this, Pol Lt Gen Prawut said the bombs “were not intended to kill”.

No motive for the attacks was given. Authorities at first told the media the bombing was the explosion of a power transformer of a Paragon billboard. They dropped that story and admitted the blasts were caused by bombs after several hours of investigation.

Thailand is officially under martial law, but police handled crowd control, and acted as spokesmen for the media. Spokesmen asked the public not to panic, despite the mishandling of the early hours of the investigation.

Army Col Winthai Suwaree, spokesman for both the ruling National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) and for the army, said the military was involved in the police investigation but provided no details. He said the motive for the bombing was unknown.

Earlier Sunday, an adviser to the NCPO denied reports the military regime was considering a proposal to end martial law. Criticism of martial law peaked again last week after a senior US official, Daniel Russel, said Washington was opposed to the use of martial law.

Pol Lt Gen Prawut claimed the motive of the attack was likely to create panic rather than take lives. He did not provide any details of the IEDs, but denied early reports that the bombs contained nails.

Party’s on in Bangkok for New Year

Posted by pakin On December - 19 - 2014 ADD COMMENTS

Bangkok is the world’s 10th most popular destination among global travellers looking for a place to celebrate the New Year holiday, says TripAdvisor, the world’s largest travel site.

Meanwhile, Chiang Mai is the top destination of Thais for their New Year celebration.

Destination rankings were based on TripAdvisor searches for the New Year holiday period from Dec 27 to Jan 4.

Jean Ow-yeong, head of media relations at TripAdvisor Asia-Pacific, said Bangkok was the only Asian destination making the top 10 thanks to its attractive costs.

London, New York and Paris were the top three favourite destinations, in that order.

The average room rate for three- and four-star hotels in Bangkok during the New Year period is expected to rise by 18% to 2,499 baht a night.

London will see a 5% rise in the average room rate to 8,441 baht a night, New York 18% to 13,435 baht and Paris 5% to 8,010 baht.

TripAdvisor said Thai travellers favoured local destinations over international ones, with seven Thai locations in their top 10 including Chiang Mai at No.1.

The popularity of Chiang Mai will see the average room rate of three- and four-star hotels in the northern capital surge 61% to 3,001 baht a night.

After Chiang Mai, the next most popular destinations are Hua Hin and Bangkok, where room rates during the New Year period will average 4,999 and 2,449 baht a night, respectively.

TripAdvisor said Hong Kong was the most popular international New Year destination for Thai travellers. But any traveller planning a trip to Hong Kong should be prepared for sticker shock.

The average room rate during the New Year festival will be 17,195 baht a night, a whopping 194% higher than the average rate throughout the rest of 2014.

At home, cooler weather, falling oil prices and the extended New Year holiday period have led to predictions that revenue from domestic tourism will be at least 6.5 billion baht during the five-day weekend, said Anupharp Thirarath, deputy governor for domestic tourism at the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT).

He predicts 1.7 million domestic trips from Dec 31 to Jan 4. Average hotel occupancy over the long weekend will be 70-80% nationwide, down only slightly from last year’s level.

Falling oil prices are expected to help boost domestic tourism, particularly automobile travel to within a 300-kilometre radius from Bangkok, Mr Anupharp said.

Popular destinations include Rayong, Chanthaburi, Trat, Hua Hin, Chumphon, Nakhon Sawan and Khao Yai.

Yutthachai Soonthronrattanavate, president of the Association of Domestic Travel, agreed lower oil prices would benefit domestic tourism.

Arrests punctuated Thursday’s widespread opening of the latest chapter in The Hunger Games movie series as police detained three student activists for anti-coup activities outside two Bangkok theatres.

Two students, including one arrested in May for eating a sandwich while reading the book 1984, were detained at the Apex Group’s Scala theatre for giving media interviews. A third was taken into custody outside Major Cineplex Group’s Siam Paragon theatres after flashing The Hunger Games three-finger gesture symbolising rebellion against totalitarian rule.

The protests came after management at Apex on Wednesday night announced the cancellation of Mockingjay Part 1showings starting today because student activists had bought 200 tickets and planned to distribute them free via Facebook.

The League of Liberal Thammasat for Democracy invited the public through its Facebook page to join an activity it called Ram Kratua, Roast Popcorn and See Movie at 11.30am at the Scala. The group offered free tickets to the 12.40pm showing, which later was cancelled.

The Scala today was showing Magic in the Moonlight.

Despite the cancellation, student organisers showed up at the theatre anyway and two were arrested and taken to Pathumwan police station. The group’s Facebook page said that they were detained due to giving interview to the media.

One of those detained at Siam Square was Rattapol Suphasopon, a senior at Thammasat University. The other was “Champ,” who was arrested on June 22 after marking the one-month anniversary of the coup with sandwich-eating and reading in front of Siam Paragon.

Undeterred by Apex’s cancellation of Mockingjay, the group moved their activity to nearby Siam Paragon.

There a third student, transgender female Natchacah Kongudom from Bangkok University, was taken into custody after flashing The Hunger Games’ trademark three-finger salute, which anti-coup protestors have adopted as a sign of defiance.

Ms Natchacha said she joined the activity after learning about the arrest of students in Khon Kaen yesterday, which she viewed as depriving them of their right to expression. The five were arrested for flashing The Hunger Games salute and wearing t-shirts with anti-coup slogans at a speech by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha.

Ms Natchaha then tried to enter the cinema, but was intercepted by police. She raised the fingers of her right hand while covering her mouth with her left and was photographed by the media before being whisked away by officers.

The salute has united anti-coup protestors worldwide. Transgender student activist Saran “Aum Neko” Chuichai – residing in France to avoid lese majeste charges – led a small group of people in giving the three-fingered salute and denouncing the coup in front of a Paris cinema on Wednesday local time.