Terror Returns To Thailand
Bomb blast in Thailand
NEW DELHI: The death toll from a bomb blast in Bangkok, Thailand has crossed 22, with authorities saying that they have not ruled out any group, including elements opposed to the military government, as investigations continue. The attack took place at the Erawan shrine, with no one at the time of writing having claimed responsibility.
The government, without blaming any group, said the attack was a bid to destroy the country’s economy. The Thai baht fell to its weakest level in more than six years on Tuesday, and the stock also opened down more than 2 percent.
"Police are not ruling out anything including (Thai) politics and the conflict of ethnic Uighurs who, before this, Thailand sent back to China," National Police Chief Somyot Pumpanmuang told reporters.
Last month, Thailand forcibly returned 109 Uighurs to China. Hundreds, and possibly thousands of others belonging to the Turkish speaking Muslim minority group have fled unrest in China's western Xinjiang region, some of them finding their way to Thailand.
Thailand has also been rocked by political conflict, with a coup in May that ousted the incumbent Prime Minister, Yingluck Shinawatra, and marked the 12th coup in the South-east Asian nation’s history since the end of absolute monarchy in 1932.
In the months leading up to the coup, unrest stemmed from Shinawatra, who along with nine cabinet ministers, being removed from office by Thailand’s constitutional court for having violated the constitution by re-assigning a senior security official in 2011.
Yingluck’s supporters, known as the “red shirts” saw her removal as a judicial coup, leading to demonstrations and protests. Violence escalated in May 2014, when three opposing protesters, known as “yellow shirts” were killed and 23 others injured after gunmen attacked a protest camp. The violence prompted warnings from the army chief that the military would step in if the unrest was not reigned in. The coup itself followed the declaration of martial law, with Prayuth Chan-ocha, Thailand’s Junta leader, being named as the country’s new Prime Minister in August last year.
Yingluck reportedly has a strong support base amongst Thailand’s rural areas and poor, whereas the country’s urban and middle class population has criticised the former Prime Minister for being corrupt. In 2013, Yingluck proposed a legislation that would have granted amnesty to her brother, former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra who had been ousted by a military coup in 2006. This proposed move set off a wave of anger amongst the “yellow shirts,” who demanded an end to the family’s role in Thai politics, brandishing them as corrupt and self-serving.
The conflict between pro and anti-government factions in Thailand can be traced to the 2006 ouster of Thaksin, who had developed a support base amongst Thailand’s rural poor through populist policies. Thaksin’s removal consolidated a broad based political support in his favour, with 2010 being a definitive year as the movement gathered momentum forcing the military to suppress the protests, leading to over 90 deaths.
It was in this environment that Yingluck could ride a wave of opposition votes from the pro-Thaksin camp into power, a year later in 2011.
Whilst the current political turbulence can be traced directly to 2006, Thailand has had a long history of political coups and turmoil. There have been 19 attempted coups - 12 successful - since the end of absolute monarchy in Thailand in 1932.
This instability has seen repeated incidents of violence, with one side blaming the other for small blasts that have dotted Thailand’s political landscape for the last decade. Two pipe bombs exploded outside a luxury shopping mall in the same area in February, but little damage was caused.
However, a blast of this scale is rare for Thailand, and according to the Royal Thai Army chief and deputy defense minister General Udomdej Sitabutr, it is not characteristic of the politics of the South. "This does not match with incidents in southern Thailand. The type of bomb used is also not in keeping with the south," the General said.