At Least 4 Dead, Dozens Wounded In Thailand Attacks
AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
Thailand today was supposed to celebrate the queen's birthday. Instead the country has been rattled by bomb explosions at tourist resorts. Four people are dead. Dozens, including 11 foreigners, are wounded. As Michael Sullivan reports from Thailand, it appears the attacks were linked to domestic politics rather than international terrorism.
MICHAEL SULLIVAN, BYLINE: So the most pressing question on many people's minds here is who did it.
PAUL CHAMBERS: We can say who didn't do it.
SULLIVAN: That's Paul Chambers, director of research at the Institute of South East Asian affairs at Chiang Mai University.
CHAMBERS: It seems extremely unlikely that an international terrorist organization from the Middle East would come over and simultaneously bomb the northern part of southern Thailand.
SULLIVAN: He says the most likely culprits are ethnic Malay Muslims in the deep south of the country who've been engaged in a low-level conflict with the Buddhist-majority Thai government for more than a decade, a conflict that's left more than 5,000 people dead.
CHAMBERS: These insurgent groups have the experience, and they have the bombing capability to get this done.
SULLIVAN: Zachary Abuza of the National War College in Washington, who's written a book about the southern Thai insurgency, isn't convinced.
ZACHARY ABUZA: They certainly have motive and the means. I absolutely agree with that. They have hit outside of the deep south on several occasions, but they've been one-offs. They've never been coordinated attacks. So if it is southern insurgents, this is absolutely unprecedented, and it would be a sharp departure from their normal targeting and operations.
SULLIVAN: Abuza says he believes the bombings to be the work of more mainstream political opponents of Thailand's military-led government, the attacks coming less than a week after the referendum on a new constitution approved by a majority of voters.
ABUZA: These guys are clearly trying to send a signal. You know, these IEDs were pretty small, were not meant to maximize the kill, but they were all there in tourist venues. And I think they're really trying to go after the economy, and tourism is 10 percent of the Thai economy.
SULLIVAN: Coup leader-turned-Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha has urged the public not to panic, blaming the bombings on those who he said seek to sow chaos and confusion. Today in Thailand there's a little of both. For NPR News, I'm Michael Sullivan in Chiang Rai.
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