BANGKOK: A bomb planted at one of the Thai capital’s most renowned shrines on Monday killed 19 people, including three foreign tourists, and wounded scores in an attack the government called a bid to destroy the economy.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blast at the Erawan shrine at a major city-centre intersection.
Thai forces are fighting a low-level Muslim insurgency in the predominantly Buddhist country’s south, but those rebels have rarely launched attacks outside their heartland.
“The perpetrators intended to destroy the economy and tourism, because the incident occurred in the heart of the tourism district,” Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwan told Reuters.
Several media outlets had earlier reported that 27 people were killed but national police chief Somyot Poompanmuang told reporters the death toll was 16 in an attack he said was unprecedented in Thailand.
“It was a pipe bomb,” Somyot said. “It was placed inside the Erawan shrine.”
The shrine, on a busy corner near top hotels, shopping centres, offices and a hospital, is a major attraction, especially for visitors from East Asia, including China. Many ordinary Thais also worship there.
The government would set up a “war room” to coordinate the response to the blast, the Nation television channel quoted Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha as saying.
Two people from China and one from the Philippines were among the dead, a tourist police officer said.
A rescue agency said more than 120 people were wounded and media said most of them were from China and Taiwan. “It was like a meat market,” said Marko Cunningham, a New Zealand paramedic working with a Bangkok ambulance service, who said the blast had left a two-metre-wide crater.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 18th, 2015.