ASIA Travel
Tue, 18 August 2015

Bomb Explodes in Heart of Bangkok, Thailand

A bomb exploded at the Erawan shrine in the heart of Bangkok on Monday evening, killing at least 20 and injuring more than 120, some seriously.

The shrine, located at one of the busiest junctions in the city, is surrounded by 5-star hotels and mega shopping malls, and is frequented by Thais as well as tourists.

Nobody has claimed responsibility for the attack, but footage released on Tuesday afternoon shows a man leaving a backpack at roughly the place where the bomb is expected to have gone off. He left moments before the explosion.

Bombs, such as the one which exploded last night, are extremely rare in Bangkok, and the ones which have gone off in the past few years have been much smaller than what caused such bloodshed and devastation on Monday night.

“These are direct attacks on the livelihood of the Thai people and their economy which is strongly linked with tourism. We stand by the government and the people of Thailand in supporting its tourism sector as a vital pillar of the wellbeing of Thai people,” said UNWTO Secretary-General, Taleb Rifai. “Terrorism is a global threat impacting our societies, taking the lives of innocent people around the world and aiming to destroy our economies and our way of life. Thailand has a long tradition of being a hospitable and welcoming country and we fully believe it will continue to be so.”

While many countries have advised caution when travelling to Thailand, the Hong Kong Security Bureau has issued a Red Outbound Travel Alert for Bangkok. As such, most of the travel agents operating Bangkok tours have agreed to cancel package tours which depart between the afternoon of 18 - 31 August (both days inclusive) and whose itineraries include Bangkok, with the exception of cruise and charter tours.

Tourists are advised to remain vigilant, monitor travel warnings, carry ID, and make sure that they have all necessary emergency numbers such as their embassy, airline, hotel, the tourist police (1155) and the main Thai emergency hotline (191).

What's Next?

No one has claimed responsibility for the Erawan shrine attack, nor the pipe bomb / hand grenade which went off in the water next to the Saphan Taksin ferry pier on Tuesday (18/8/2015).

 At first, most Thai media seemed to claim the attack was aimed at foreigners, tourists, but if visitor numbers were to be counted, both areas would most probably be visited by more Thais than tourists. The hard truth is that if someone wanted to target westerners then there are far better places, and the same goes for other nationalities.

To emphasize the point, the ferry pier is used by a lot of Thais to get to and from home at a reasonable price while avoiding the city's notorious traffic problems. It is also used by tourists as a relatively convenient way to get to some major attractions, by official tourist boats and by hotels on the river ferrying their guests to the closest BTS sky train station.

The Erawan shrine also attracts a lot of tourists - especially from places like China, Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Malaysia etc. - but it also attracts a very large number of Thais on a daily basis - which is in itself an oddity as it is an Hindu shrine, and not a Buddhist one. Such is the strength of belief regarding this shrine's powers, that the small matter of different religious beliefs can be put to one side.

 One question worth asking however, is, if the aim of the bomb was to kill as many as possible, then why do it on a Monday? Any other day of the week would have likely caused more death and injury as Monday is the only day of the week that lots of vendors are not selling garlands of flowers and incense right next to the area where the bomb was detonated. This is something you can clearly see on the CCTV of the bomb suspect as he sits down inside the Erawan shrine. On any other day, that side walk directly behind him would not only be busy with passers by, but also with lots of those vendors - the death toll would most likely have been much, much higher.

Thai officials will be eager to close this case as quickly as they can, but some of the speculation making the rounds in Thai media will be causing more than a little concern. China is not only an enormous trade partner and one of the largest outbound travel markets in the world, but the Chinese are also the world's biggest spending tourists. Both the trade and tourism are crucial to the Thai economy.

A 1 million Thai Baht reward (roughly US$ 28,000) was offered in exchange for information that leads to the arrest of the suspect(s), this has now been increased to 3 million.

See other recent news regarding: Interviews, Pictures, Videos, Bangkok, Thailand

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