Bombs damage statue on popular southern Thai beach
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