A series of coordinated explosions have rocked at least four cities in Thailand, claiming several lives. DW spoke with Thailand expert Michael Winzer about the situation on the ground shortly after the attacks.
Following the attacks, several people have been confirmed killed and many injured – including a number of foreigners, as the attacks targeted popular terrorist sites – while the identity of the attackers remain unknown.
The bombings on Thursday and Friday came at a sensitive time in Thailand, with this weekend marking Queen Sirikit’s 84th birthday. A contentious referendum put forward by the military junta was also approved last week, paving the way for a new constitution and elections next year.
In a DW interview, Michael Winzer, head of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation in Thailand, says it’s startling that such a series of attacks can take place now, despite the high level of security precautions in place in the Southeast Asian nation.
DW: What is the atmosphere like in Bangkok after the attacks?
Michael Winzer: The people here are very surprised. It was thought that now – after the political tracks have been laid for the new constitution – a bit of normality would set in. But that such a series of attacks can take place now, despite the high level of security precautions in place, it’s startling. It is also clear that some sort of group has to be behind the attacks, with the necessary know-how and network to be able to launch such a concerted action in a number of different provinces and cities.
What do we know about the attackers?
For the moment there is still no information about the attackers. No group has come forward to claim the attacks. But the bombings were carried out at tourist sites, so they were directed against tourism – an economic sector that has grown in recent years in Thailand and has underpinned its economy. The sites were likely deliberately chosen to assault the economy. Thailand’s high tourist season starts in November and December. The timing of the attacks will probably then have an effect on trip bookings.
How have the Thai authorities responded to the bombings?
The authorities held a press conference, but so far they haven’t given any concrete information with regard to the motive behind the attacks. Officials have ruled out any link to terrorism, indicating that the attacks were an act of local sabotage. However, at this stage, it’s still too early to get a comprehensive overview of all the developments. There were also incidents of arson, and it’s still unclear whether they were somehow connected to the bombings.
How do you view the Thai media coverage of the blasts?
At present, I don’t have a very good overview of the Thai media, as I get my information primarily via Twitter and other social networking sites. Media outlets in the country have reported about the bombings, and in the coming days we will see the willingness of the authorities to share information with the public and the freedom journalists have to report about the bombings.
Social media, and Twitter in specific, have proven a double-edged sword when attacks have taken place in Europe, helping important communication to spread rapidly along with false information and panic. How is it functioning now in Thailand?
There is a lot of information. There are constant updates and pictures from eye witnesses and from people who experienced the attacks. There are assessments from experts. And there are also users on Twitter or elsewhere on social media who are already trying to instrumentalize the attacks. So there is a wide variety of information and you have to of course be very careful.
Michael Winzer heads the Konrad-Adenauer Foundation in Thailand.