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Thailand Bombings ‘Were Meant to Scare Tourists’ Locals in Phuket Say

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Four days after Thailand voted to accept a controversial constitution that gives the military control over the political future of the country, a series of bomb blasts in popular tourist destinations rocked the kingdom on Thursday night and Friday morning.

The explosions in Hua Hin, Phuket, Trang and Surat Thani killed four people and injured scores more, and police have warned of further attacks. No one has yet claimed responsibility.

In Phuket, a tourist hot spot that sees an estimated 5 million visitors a year, two bombs exploded at around 8 a.m. local time in the beach town of Patong. Patong is the main tourist center on Phuket — a bustling, vibrant town known for its a rowdy nightlife and plethora of “girly” bars, restaurants, and clubs. One bomb exploded outside a police box close to the beach at the bottom of the busy Bangla Road, injuring a motorcycle taxi driver. Another was detonated 300 m away at Loma Park, the Bangkok Post reports. No one was wounded in the second blast.

Tuk-tuk driver Loiy Dusitpirom, who was working close to the police box on the beach road, says he “heard the bomb and ran away. I went back and didn’t see any police in the box.”

The explosions on Phuket come after two suspicious devices were found in Patong on Wednesday, one outside the popular Paradise hotel.

“The bombs were meant to scare tourists and people who work on Bangla Road,” says Joe Bonmeh, a Burmese national who works at a tattoo parlor on the road where the two explosions were detonated.

After the bomb attacks on Phuket, the bars and restaurants on Bangla Road were closed until early afternoon, but there are no police on the street. And the site were the bomb exploded, close to the police box, was left unguarded with police cones surrounding it. However, the police and military were expected to arrive in the evening. General deputy police commissioner of Patong, Manit Tanamanit, tells TIME that they have a picture of the suspects “from CCTV” and that authorities have arranged a meeting “to talk to the owners of businesses soon.”

Thai officials said it was too early to say who was behind the bombings, but officials have ruled out Islamic terrorism. “We are sure that it is not linked to terrorism,” Thai Police Colonel Krisana Patanacharoen said, as reported by the Associated Press. Some experts have suggested the bombings were a coordinated attempt to undermine the country’s military junta, which seized power in a coup two years ago.

— With reporting by Chayaphat Nimu / Phuket


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Write to Helen Regan at helen.regan@timeasia.com