Phone that triggered Thai bomb 'linked to Malaysia'

A Thai policeman searching a visitor's bag yesterday at the Erawan Shrine in Bangkok as the authorities increase security following a string of bomb attacks in Phuket and other southern provinces last week. A mobile phone used to trigger an explosion
A Thai policeman searching a visitor's bag yesterday at the Erawan Shrine in Bangkok as the authorities increase security following a string of bomb attacks in Phuket and other southern provinces last week. A mobile phone used to trigger an explosion in Phuket was reported to have contained a Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission serial number.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Police reportedly seeking KL's help to identify source; separatists suspected of attacks

Thai police are reported to be seeking Malaysian help to identify the source of a mobile phone used in one of the bombings that struck the southern provinces last week.

A portion of a mobile phone used to trigger an explosion in Phuket on Friday contained a Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission serial number, according to Bernama news agency.

Thai police, who have not confirmed the report, have gathered closed-circuit television footage and DNA samples from blast sites, and say they expect to make progress in investigations soon.

"Police in region eight have said they might have good news in the next one or two days," deputy national police chief Pongsapat Pongcharoen said yesterday. Region eight refers to the police division overseeing some southern provinces.

Major tourist hot spots as well as central areas in Phuket, Phangnga, Surat Thani, Prachuap Khiri Khan and Trang provinces were hit by a string of explosions over Thursday and Friday. There were separate arson attacks in Nakhon Si Thammarat and Krabi.

MAKING PROGRESS

Police in region eight have said they might have good news in the next one or two days.

DEPUTY NATIONAL POLICE CHIEF PONGSAPAT PONGCHAROEN. Region eight refers to the police division overseeing the southern provinces.

Four people were killed and over 30 others, including foreigners, injured. The toll would have been higher if not for the discovery of two home-made bombs in Phuket on Wednesday which were defused.

General Pongsapat told reporters that the bomb and arson materials in all the sites were similar. "We believe they were done by members of the same group."

The attacks took place on a national holiday to mark the 84th birthday of Queen Sirikit and came barely a week after a controversial draft Constitution was endorsed in a nationwide referendum. Critics had warned beforehand that the draft charter, which expands the power of unelected bodies over elected representatives - and which they argue would entrench military rule - would deepen conflict in the politically riven kingdom.

In a special televison appearance late on Friday night, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said the attacks "will serve as a constant reminder to the Thai people that there are some malicious people in our society and in Thailand, who have perpetrated these acts since before our referendum day and now on one of the most important days for our nation".

No one has claimed responsibility for the attacks so far, but suspicion has fallen on the separatist insurgents who are fighting a war against the state in the southern border provinces of Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat, as well as a section of Songkhla. The long-running conflict in the Malay Muslim-dominated area has killed over 6,000 people so far.

While the insurgents have largely confined their armed campaign to their home provinces, Dr Srisompob Jitpiromsri, a founder of the Deep South Watch which analyses the conflict, said the insurgent network was the only group within Thailand with the organisational capacity to carry out the latest attacks.

Voters in Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat, who have been living under the yoke of military control even before the 2014 coup, rejected the draft Constitution in the referendum, he noted. The attacks could be a way for the insurgents to demonstrate their support for local sentiments, he told The Sunday Times.

Yesterday, some blast sites were cleaned up and reopened to the public, while many shops and restaurants in Hua Hin - the upscale seaside district struck by multiple bombings that killed two people - reopened for business.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 14, 2016, with the headline 'Phone that triggered Thai bomb 'linked to Malaysia''. Print Edition | Subscribe