BANGKOK — Four people have been killed and more than two dozen injured in a wave of lethal bombings across Thailand that appeared to target the country’s crucial tourism industry at the start of a long holiday weekend. Officials tightened security in tourist spots and at airports in affected areas following the incidents.
Authorities said it was unclear who was behind the explosions, which occurred as Thais marked the 84th birthday of the nation’s beloved Queen Sirikit, on Aug. 12, which also is Mothers Day.
Some analysts speculated that a long-running insurgency in the country’s deep south may be spreading farther north. Others suggested the bombers may oppose the military regime and were spurred to action by a recent referendum that codifies political domination by the generals, who overthrew the elected government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra two years ago.
In the incidents:
• Two people died in two separate bombings in the seaside resort town of Hua Hin, site of the royal family’s summer palace. Two explosions 30 minutes apart hit a market area in the town Thursday night, killing one person and injuring 19. Another person died when two more explosions occurred Friday morning.
• One person died when two explosions rocked Surat Thani in southern Thailand on Friday morning. Three other people were injured. One bomb exploded in front of the marine police office, the other in front of the police station in Muang district.
• On Thursday, one man was killed and five others wounded when a bomb exploded in the southern province of Trang. The blast shook the Muang district in a spot not far from the house of the provincial police chief, city hall, and several government offices.
• One person was injured in one of two blasts in Phuket, one of the country’s most popular tourist destinations, also located in the south. One device exploded at a police booth in the Patong Beach area and the second at Loma Beach. Authorities disabled a third bomb.
• Two bombs exploded in two different places in the Takua Pa district of Phang Nga, a province known for its beaches, scuba diving, and national parks. No injuries were reported.
• None of the bombs were suicide bombs.
Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, the general who heads the junta that staged the military coup d’état in May 2014, called for calm. He said he did not know who was behind the attacks, but declared that “The bombs are an attempt to create chaos and confusion.”
Authorities have ordered that all police units “stay alert” and have boosted security in “large public-gathering areas throughout the country,” said Kritsana Pattanacharoen, a Royal Thai Police spokesman. “Please stay calm and cooperate with authorities,” he said at a press conference. He also appealed for citizens to notify police if they have any information that could help in the bombings investigation.
Thailand has been quiet since the military took power two years ago. That is due mostly to a crackdown by the army and police, which have moved to end a cycle of sometimes fatal confrontation between rival groups that have occurred on and off since Thaksin Shinawatra, Yingluck’s older brother, was ousted as prime minister in a previous coup in September 2006.
The clampdown has ended dueling demonstrations, some of them violent, by Thaksin supporters, referred to as “red shirts” and “yellow shirts,” who back the military, big businesspeople, and ultraroyalists who constitute the status quo. The government also has placed harsh restrictions on the media.
In a referendum last Sunday, Thai voters strongly supported a new military-drafted constitution that allows the military to appoint the entire senate—which would then have the power to dissolve a future elected government in times of “crisis.” Critics have dismissed the referendum as undemocratic, noting that the “vote no” side was not allowed to campaign and was denied access to radio and television.
At the same time, successive Thai governments have battled a decades-long, “low-grade” insurgency in the country’s three southern-most provinces where some Muslim militants have been fighting for autonomy, if not independence. The insurgents, mostly ethnic Malays, have resisted integration with ethnic Thais. An estimated 6,000 people have died in the insurgency.
Some Thai authorities are now saying the bombs used Thursday and Friday are similar to those used in the southern insurgency, which suggests the militants there are pushing their campaign northward.
But some analysts don’t buy that suggestion. Thitinan Pongsudhirak, an associate professor at Chulalongkorn University, agreed that the attacks were coordinated, but suggested they were pegged to the country’s ongoing political crisis. “I think this has to do with domestic politics,” he told Al Jazeera. “It has something to do with anti-regime sentiments—anti-regime people who want to send a message that they don’t like the outcome of the referendum.”