18 August 2015
A bomb exploded yesterday evening at the busy Ratchaprasong Intersection in the heart of Bangkok’s commercial district. Reports from Bangkok this morning say at least 20 people have been killed and more than 100 injured. The blast occurred at 6.55pm local time yesterday. Initial reports said the device detonated just outside the Erawan Shrine whilst subsequent statements suggest the bomb was placed under a bench inside the entrance to the shrine. No group has yet claimed responsibility for the bomb. There have been some harrowing images on social media and heart-wrenching reports shown on local television throughout last night and today. Jonathan Head, a reporter for the BBC who arrived at Erawan Shrine shorty after the explosion, described the scene as ‘carnage’.
Who is responsible?
There are a number of possible perpetrators of the atrocity. It could be linked to international terrorist groups or it could be connected to the long-running insurgency in the Deep South of Thailand. If it was the former, it would be likely that some group would claim responsibility sooner rather than later. If it is connected to the insurgency in Thailand’s troubled Deep South it would mark a significant change in tactics. Another scenario is that the blast is connected to the continuing power struggle in Thailand although this would also be a massive raising of the stakes and change in tactics if that proved to be the case. There has even been speculation of a link to the Uighur situation in China following Thailand’s decision to deport a number of Uighur Muslims last month.
The Erawan Shrine is full of tourists and locals throughout the day and evening whilst the Ratchaprasong intersection is one the busiest traffic junctions in Bangkok. The Ratchaprasong area has seen bloodshed before. In April 2010, the area became the focus of anti-government protests that were eventually dispersed in a bloody crackdown by the Thai military a month later. Dozens were killed in the violence including soldiers, protesters and civilians.
The scenes that unfolded last night provided the starkest of contrasts to events just 24 jours before. On Sunday, Thailand’s Crown Prince led thousands of cyclists through the streets of Bangkok in the celebratory ‘Bike for Mom’ event in honour of Queen Sirikit’s birthday.
Current situation in Bangkok
Roads around the Ratchaprasong area have been closed this morning, but Skytrain and metro services have been running normally. The public are being advised to allow for extra time for extra security checks that may be in place on public transport routes and at Bangkok Suvarnabhumi and Don Muang airports. People in Bangkok are being asked to remain calm and continue with their daily lives as usual. Tourists are being advised to remain vigilant but to continue with their trips as planned.
Update: 18 August 2015
A second device detonated today close to Sathorn Pier on Bangkok’s Chao Phraya River. No injuries were reported with the pipe bomb landing in the water before exploding.