Thailand to boost security after hospital blast

Thai military personnel checking the bags of visitors at an entrance to the Phramongkutklao Hospital in Bangkok on Tuesday, a day after a bomb exploded in one of the rooms in the military-owned facility. Thailand has vowed to step up security as viol
Thai military personnel checking the bags of visitors at an entrance to the Phramongkutklao Hospital in Bangkok on Tuesday, a day after a bomb exploded in one of the rooms in the military-owned facility. Thailand has vowed to step up security as violence could delay an election expected next year.PHOTO: REUTERS

BANGKOK • Thailand has reassured the international community that it would increase security at sensitive locations after a bomb exploded at a hospital in the capital, Bangkok, wounding 24 people.

Thailand has been ruled by a junta since a May 2014 coup.

The attack on Monday coincided with the third anniversary of the takeover and the army has blamed the incident on groups opposed to military rule.

No group has claimed responsibility for the attack, which happened at the military-owned Phramongkutklao Hospital. Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai told reporters: "Any action at a hospital violates human rights… I would like the foreigners to know that security forces are looking after this."

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Junta spokesman Winthai Suvaree said security would be increased and any measures found not to be working would have to be changed.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said an election expected next year was on track, but he raised the possibility that violence could lead to a delay.

"I want everyone to think: If the country is still like this, with bombs, weapons, and conflicts among people... can we hold an election?" he told reporters on Tuesday after the weekly Cabinet meeting.

One of the most popular holiday destinations in South-east Asia, Thailand attracted 32.6 million visitors last year. But the country has been rocked by attacks, including a series of explosions last year at beach locations and a bomb at a Bangkok shrine popular with Asian tourists in 2015.

The military seized power on May 22, 2014, to end protests aimed at overthrowing a government led by a populist movement that had won every election since 2001.

Mr Prayut, however, said on Tuesday the hospital bomb was unlikely to be linked to the junta's third anniversary on the same day.

"We'll have to wait for investigation results," he said. " I don't think this will be related to our anniversary and we won't make a big deal about that assumption."

He also played down the fact that the bombing occurred in a room named after his right-hand man, Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister General Prawit Wongsuwan.

There is speculation that the bomb could have been planted by Muslim separatists in the deep south of the predominantly Buddhist country or angry supporters of ousted populist governments.

REUTERS, THE NATION/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 25, 2017, with the headline 'Thailand to boost security after hospital blast'. Print Edition | Subscribe