High security in Thailand as police warn of bomb plot

Malls, carparks and tourist attractions said to be at risk; junta chief calls for calm

BANGKOK • Police in Thailand yesterday said they have increased security at major landmarks in the capital Bangkok, at airports and in surrounding provinces following reports of bomb plots just weeks after deadly attacks rocked the country's south.

An unusually detailed police memo was handed to reporters on Monday warning that an unidentified group was planning to target Bangkok between Oct 25 and 30. The memo said "areas such as malls, carparks and tourist attractions" were at risk and ordered police to be extra-vigilant.

Yesterday, Thailand's junta chief appealed for calm. The junta has refused to label the assaults as terrorist attacks and has played down suggestions that tourists are being deliberately targeted.

POLICE ON ALERT

Let officials carry out their jobs and please be confident in their work.

THAI PRIME MINISTER PRAYUT CHAN-O-CHA, who also told reporters that an investigation into the bomb plot was under way.

"Let officials carry out their jobs and please be confident in their work," Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-Cha, who seized power in 2014, told reporters. He said the bomb plot was an "ongoing warning" and an investigation was under way but told people not to panic.

Popular tourist destination Thailand has seen a series of bomb attacks in the country's south over the past few weeks, including a wave of blasts in tourist towns on Aug 11 and 12 that killed four Thai people and injured dozens, foreigners among them. Police have linked the attacks to Muslim separatists operating in Thailand's far south.

Mr Thawip Netniyom, chief of Thailand's National Security Council, said he was unsure whether the planned bombings and the August attacks were related.

Thailand's tourism industry, which accounts for 10 per cent of its gross domestic product, has weathered more than a decade of unrest, including two military coups and the recent bombings.

In August last year, a bomb ripped through a religious shrine in Bangkok killing 20 people, most of them tourists. Two ethnic Uighur Muslims from China are on trial in Thailand accused of carrying out the attack. Analysts and diplomats suspected the attack was linked to Uighur sympathisers angered by Thailand's deportation of more than 100 Uighurs to China the previous month.

Bangkok is currently playing host at a regional meeting attended by some world and business leaders.

Police said they are on high alert. "I have ordered all police under my supervision in the area around Bangkok to monitor news, investigate and gather intelligence on groups who could come in and cause trouble," said Police Lieutenant General Charnthep Sesawet, acting chief of Provincial Police Region 1, which oversees areas around the capital.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 12, 2016, with the headline 'High security in Thailand as police warn of bomb plot'. Print Edition | Subscribe