Thai junta leader Prayuth Chan-ocha has ordered security to be tightened in Bangkok after two bombs were detonated near a luxury shopping mall over the weekend.
The two small, handmade, pipe bombs exploded near the Siam sky train station in front of the busy Paragon Shopping Complex on Sunday evening around 8:00 local time (13:00 GMT), causing minor injuries to two people. Authorities previously said that the blasts were caused by the explosion of a power transformer before admitting that bombs were involved following several hours of investigation.
“I have ordered security to be tightened because this case involves the well-being of the people,” Prayuth told reporters on Monday. “This case shows that we still need martial law… there are still bad people disrupting the peace. We must find ways to severely punish them,” he added.
Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon concurred, adding that such incidents “inflicts loss of confidence” in the country and warning that the public will now face stepped up security. “We will strictly enforce security across the country. We need to have high security checks in some areas,” Prawit said.
Martial law has been in place indefinitely in Thailand since a military coup led by Prayuth last May. Political tensions have been high in the country following a decision to ban former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra from politics for five years, angering her supporters. The incident was the latest saga in a protracted political conflict pitting Yingluck, her exiled brother and former prime minister Thaksin, and their mostly rural base against the Bangkok royalist-military establishment. The struggle between these two camps has paralyzed the country repeatedly over the past decade.
While investigation is still ongoing, Police Lieutenant General Prawut Thawonrsiri, a spokesman for the Royal Thai police, said that the location and the methods used indicated that the motive of the attack appeared to be to create panic rather than to take lives. When asked if the bombers hoped to create unrest and discredit the government, Prayuth said: “You already know this. Why even ask?”
There was no claim of responsibility for the blasts and police have not identified any suspects. CCTV footage showed two possible suspects near where the bombs exploded, but the images are unclear and have not been identified. However, Prayuth said he was confident the perpetrators would be found through CCTV footage of the area.
The incident comes just as martial law in Thailand was publicly criticized by the highest-ranking U.S. diplomat to visit the country since the coup, as The Diplomat reported. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel Russel had said in a speech that Thailand’s political process was not inclusive enough before being rebuked by several government officials.