On Tuesday the 18th of August in Bangkok, Thailand, a bomb was set off in a religious temple, killing 20 people and injuring 100 more. The incident took place at Ratchaprasong, an intersection and shopping mall in the Pathum Wan district of Bangkok. One of its main attractions is the Erawan shrine which is visited by thousands of tourist and Buddhists every day. The Erawan shrine is located on the main road and is surrounded by three major shopping malls.
The bomb was set off at seven pm in local time (1 pm BST). Bangkok has been relatively safe since the military coup takeover in May last year, but there has been some tension in recent months due to an insurgence of Islamic separatists. However, this uprising is exclusively in the south of Thailand and never in tourist areas. This latest turn of events is particularly bad news for the Thai tourism industry: with A-level results just coming in, and many students planning gap years, this will hurt the Thai economy and raise questions about security in Thailand.
Many believe the motive behind the bombing was political, as Thailand has a history of political bombings: in 2006, on the 31st December, eight bombs exploded around central Bangkok during new year’s celebrations; in 2005, a series of three bombings took place in the cities of Hat Yai and Songkhla, and in 2007, during the Chinese new year’s celebrations, in the provinces of Narathiwat, Pattani, Songkhla and Jala, synchronised bombings targeted hostels, karaoke bars, power grids, and also struck two schools.
Several other noticeable terrorists attacks also took place in 2009 and 2012, both orchestrated by the ‘Patani United Liberation Organisation’, one of the active separatist groups trying to achieve an Islamic caliphate – a form of Islamic government that has control over all of the Muslim community. At first the P.U.L.O were a separatist movement dedicated to making Patani its own independent state, but in 2001, Patani insurgency was taken over by the leader of the Salafi movement, an ultra-conservative Islamic movement that emulates the prophet Mohammed and his earliest followers: they reject religious innovation and support the implementation of sharia law.
However, police aren’t sure if the bombing on Tuesday was a political one or revenge bombing by ethnic Uighurs, a Turkish-speaking Muslim minority from China’s western province of Xinjiang. Thailand deported 109 Uighurians to China in July this year, and sparked anger from both the community and human right activists. National chief of police, Somyot Poompanmoung, has said investigators have not been able to establish the nationality of the man with the backpack, or whether he is still in the country, and have set aside a bounty of one million Thai baht (£17,935) as a reward for anyone who can provide information leading to the arrest of the bomber.