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String of blasts hit Thai tourist resorts

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Investigation officials collect evidence from the crime scene after a bomb exploded in Hua Hin

AFP - A string of bomb attacks hit popular tourist towns across Thailand, leaving four dead and many injured, with authorities yesterday ruling out terrorism despite suspicions insurgents in the kingdom’s deep south are responsible.


In the normally peaceful resort town of Hua Hin, blood-spattered tourists were treated by rescue workers as forensic teams picked through the rubble, with police scrambling to reassure visitors the situation was under control.


“This is not a terrorist attack. It is just local sabotage that is restricted to limited areas and provinces,” national police deputy spokesman Piyapan Pingmuang said in Bangkok.
No one has claimed responsibility for the 11 bombings, and the seemingly coordinated attack across five provinces does not match common patterns of violence in the turbulent nation which is currently under military rule.
Royal retreat 
Worst-hit was the upscale resort of Hua Hin which was rocked by two sets of twin bombs in the past 24 hours - one pair on Thursday night and the second yesterday morning.
A further two blasts struck yesterday at Patong Beach on the popular tourist island of Phuket while three more were reported further south -- two in the southern town of Surat Thani, killing one, and one more blast in Trang, which also left one person dead.

Hua Hin, which lies about 200 kilometres (125 miles) south of Bangkok, is popular with both local and foreign tourists and was for years the favourite seaside retreat of King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the world’s longest reigning monarch.
The blasts erupted on the eve of Queen Sirikit’s 84th birthday, which is also celebrated as Mother’s Day in Thailand.


Thitinan Pongsudhirak, a political expert with Chulalongkorn University, said the attacks were a “blatant challenge to the military”, which has ruled over Thailand since ultra-royalist generals seized power in a 2014 coup. 


However rights groups criticised the junta’s bans on debate and campaigning in the lead up to the poll, calling it far from free or fair. 
Record tourism
One region that voted down the constitution was the “deep south” -- the three southern border provinces home to a long-running Muslim insurgency against the majority-Buddhist state. 
Zachary Abuza, an expert on Southeast Asian militant groups, said that while the southern insurgents had not carried out coordinated attacks for years, it was possible “a small cell” was behind this assault.


Thailand’s reputation as the “Land of Smiles” has suffered in recent years from political unrest, including small-scale bombings, and a number of high-profile crimes against foreigners.
But tourists continue to flock to its white, sandy beaches. The kingdom is expecting a record 32 million visitors in 2016 - a bright spot in an otherwise lacklustre economy.


The latest blasts came just days before the first anniversary of the last major attack on tourists in Thailand - an August 17 bomb that killed 20 people, mostly ethnic Chinese tourists at a crowded Hindu shrine in Bangkok.
Two Uighur men from western China have been accused of the attack and are due to go on trial this month. Both have denied any involvement.

Hua Hin, which lies about 200 kilometres (125 miles) south of Bangkok, is popular with both local and foreign tourists and was for years the favourite seaside retreat of King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the world’s longest reigning monarch.
The blasts erupted on the eve of Queen Sirikit’s 84th birthday, which is also celebrated as Mother’s Day in Thailand.
Thitinan Pongsudhirak, a political expert with Chulalongkorn University, said the attacks were a “blatant challenge to the military”, which has ruled over Thailand since ultra-royalist generals seized power in a 2014 coup. 


However rights groups criticised the junta’s bans on debate and campaigning in the lead up to the poll, calling it far from free or fair. 
Record tourism
One region that voted down the constitution was the “deep south” -- the three southern border provinces home to a long-running Muslim insurgency against the majority-Buddhist state. 
Zachary Abuza, an expert on Southeast Asian militant groups, said that while the southern insurgents had not carried out coordinated attacks for years, it was possible “a small cell” was behind this assault.


Thailand’s reputation as the “Land of Smiles” has suffered in recent years from political unrest, including small-scale bombings, and a number of high-profile crimes against foreigners.
But tourists continue to flock to its white, sandy beaches. The kingdom is expecting a record 32 million visitors in 2016 - a bright spot in an otherwise lacklustre economy.
The latest blasts came just days before the first anniversary of the last major attack on tourists in Thailand - an August 17 bomb that killed 20 people, mostly ethnic Chinese tourists at a crowded Hindu shrine in Bangkok.


Two Uighur men from western China have been accused of the attack and are due to go on trial this month. Both have denied any involvement.

 

 

 

 

 

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