Bombs dam­age statue on pop­u­lar south­ern Thai beach

The Myanmar Times - Weekend - - Asean Focus -

TWO small bombs ex­ploded at a pop­u­lar beach in south­ern Thai­land, one of them dam­ag­ing an iconic statue beloved by tourists, po­lice said.

Po­lice in Songkhla prov­ince said they’re look­ing into whether the bombs late Wed­nes­day were re­lated to a Mus­lim sep­a­ratist in­sur­gency that has wracked nearby prov­inces since 2004, tak­ing al­most 7000 lives.

One of the ex­plo­sions dam­aged the Golden Mer­maid statue, which is an un­of­fi­cial sym­bol of the prov­ince, said po­lice Lt. Gen. Ron­nasilp Phusara. The other took place about 300 me­tres away, near the beach’s Cat and Mouse sculp­ture.

Po­lice said a bomb dis­posal squad dis­cov­ered and de­stroyed three other ex­plo­sive de­vices found near a trash area and un­der rocks near the Golden Mer­maid statue.

The in­sur­gency has mostly af­fected the three south­ern­most prov­inces of Pat­tani, Yala, and Narathi­wat, which have Mus­lim ma­jori­ties in mostly Bud­dhist Thai­land. Songkhla, with a sub­stan­tial Mus­lim pop­u­la­tion, has gen­er­ally been spared the vi­o­lence, though its big­gest city, Hat Yai, has suf­fered sev­eral bomb­ings.

Although ter­ror­ism is not con­sid­ered a ma­jor prob­lem in Thai­land, tourist spots have been spo­rad­i­cally tar­geted since 2006, when a se­ries of bombs were set off in Bangkok at New Year’s Eve gath­er­ings, killing three peo­ple and wound­ing more than three dozen.

In 2016, bomb ex­plo­sions in five beach towns pop­u­lar with tourists killed four peo­ple and wounded dozens.

In both cases, south­ern sep­a­ratists were sus­pected but re­spon­si­bil­ity was never es­tab­lished.

Thai­land’s most spec­tac­u­lar at­tack in re­cent years oc­curred at the Erawan Shrine in the cen­tre of Bangkok’s tourist district in Au­gust 2015. Twenty peo­ple, mostly for­eign tourists, were killed and more than 100 hurt.

Thai au­thor­i­ties blamed hu­man traf­fick­ers an­gry at a crack­down, but an­other the­ory holds that it was car­ried out by mil­i­tants from China’s Mus­lim Uighur mi­nor­ity in re­tal­i­a­tion for Thai­land send­ing back to China a group of Uighurs who had fled re­pres­sion there. Two Uighur men are cur­rently on trial for the bomb­ing. – AP THE Na­tional Anti-cor­rup­tion Com­mis­sion de­cided by ma­jor­ity vote on Thurs­day that Deputy Prime Min­is­ter Prawit Wong­su­won had no in­ten­tion of mak­ing a false as­sets dec­la­ra­tion by omit­ting 22 lux­ury watches he had been seen wear­ing.

NACC sec­re­tary-gen­eral Wo­rawit Suk­boon said they had sought clar­i­fi­ca­tion from Gen Prawit four times in re­sponse to al­le­ga­tions that he had made a false as­sets dec­la­ra­tion.

Gen Prawit told the NACC he had bor­rowed the watches from his close friend Patthawat Suk­sri­wong, since de­ceased, and had re­turned them all.

The NACC also sought in­for­ma­tion from wit­nesses, lo­cal deal­ers of lux­ury watches, the Cus­toms De­part­ment and the For­eign Min­istry and from over­seas lux­ury watch man­u­fac­tur­ers.

The com­mis­sion found that Patthawat had been a rich busi­ness­man and col­lected lux­ury watches. He had of­ten of­fered fi­nan­cial help and lent lux­ury watches to old friends from Saint Gabriel’s Col­lege, in­clud­ing Gen Prawit, Wo­rawit said.

At Patthawat’s res­i­dence, the NACC found 20 lux­ury watches and a war­ranty for an­other watch that Gen Prawit had been seen wear­ing. It be­lieved that Gen Prawit had bor­rowed the 21 watches.

The com­mis­sion did not find the 22nd watch, but as­sumed that Gen Prawit had also bor­rowed it from Patthawat, given Patthawat’s known gen­eros­ity to his friends, Wo­rawit said.

The NACC re­solved by a 5:3 vote that Gen Prawit had no in­ten­tion of mak­ing a false as­sets dec­la­ra­tion when he filed it with the NACC in Sep­tem­ber 2014 after be­com­ing deputy prime min­is­ter and de­fence min­is­ter.

The dis­sent­ing com­mis­sion­ers wanted the NACC to ex­pand its in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the mat­ter be­cause they felt the ex­ist­ing in­for­ma­tion was in­suf­fi­cient, Wo­rawit said.

Also, the NACC did not think Gen Prawit had to de­clare three rings he was seen wear­ing, be­cause they were his fa­ther’s and he re­ceived them as an in­her­i­tance from his mother after tak­ing the two cab­i­net port­fo­lios, Wo­rawit said. – Bangkok Post Party went on to win all seats in the Na­tional As­sem­bly, the lower house.

On Wed­nes­day, the prime min­is­ter also em­pha­sised that the de­funct op­po­si­tion party will not be re­ha­bil­i­tated, and that the next gen­eral elec­tion will only be held in July 2023, re­ject­ing a claim by Sam Rainsy that an elec­tion should be held again soon. – Ky­odo

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