Uncertainty over who is responsible for Bangkok bombing fuels Thai concerns about possible jihadism link

Attack on Erawan shrine is unclaimed by any organisation with the authorities apparently bewildered

 

The targeting by Monday’s Bangkok bomber of a site much frequented by tourists had ominous echoes of the deadly attack in June on Sousse in Tunis and earlier ones by jihadi militants on Egyptian tourist targets. But the attack on the Erawan shrine, the most deadly by far in Thailand’s recent history and which which killed 22 people and wounded 123 remains a mystery, unclaimed by any organisation, with the authorities apparently bewildered.

That uncertainty will fuel fears among the public in the capital and do considerable damage done to an industry which represents ten per cent of GDP. It also represents a major challenge to the military junta which seized power last year in a coup on a promise of security and order. Tensions had already been rising with the repeated postponement of the date for new elections, while hundreds of political opponents remain in jail. Restrictions on the press remain in force.

Although the opposition red-shirt movement, loyal to ousted prime minister, Yingluck Shinawatra, and her exiled brother, Thaksin Shinawatra, has in the past been linked, fairly or unfairly, with low-level violence few believe it is behind this bombing, an attack clearly designed to cause maximum civilian damage. Observers have discounted involvement by ethnic Malay Muslim separatists who have waged a long and unsuccessful campaign against rule from Bangkok in Thailand’s southern provinces.

The deaths of five Chinese tourists have also fuelled fears that the bombing may be the work of exiled Chinese Muslim Uighur nationalists from the western province of Xinjiang, a group of whom were recently sent back by Thailand as terrorists. But it is difficult to see how such an attack would benefit their purpose.

Which might just leave the possibility of involvement of jihadism as practised by Isis, al-Qaida and like-minded groups, not least the Philippines-based terror group, Abu Sayyaf. If the finger points in that direction the Thai bombing acquires a dangerous new international dimension which will be of deep concern to the world community.

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