Bombs on Friday were not designed to kill and maim civilians but rather to cause panic and disruption. A top police officer who investigated the Erawan Shrine bombing in 2015 has been appointed by the Thai police chief to get to the bottom of the matter. Army boss vows it will be prepared as the attacks were a possible indicator of  ‘more incidents to come’ in Thailand.

Thailand’s security apparatus is reviewing what went wrong on Friday when Bangkok found itself gripped in a panic caused by 7 homemade explosive devices, 5 of which went off. The prime minister has come out strongly to say that no extra security powers would be needed at this time by the government. Two Muslim men are being questioned by police in Bangkok, one of whom has been linked to the southern insurgency. They have been named as Wildon Maha and Lu-ai Saengae. On Friday night, a top-level security meeting chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan concluded that the bombings on Friday are linked to the activities of the southern separatists.

A Friday night security intelligence meeting chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan (right) has concluded that the bombings in Bangkok earlier in the day were the work of southern insurgents linked with an ongoing separatist movement. It is understood that police and security services are also linking the attack to one in August 2016 that targeted southern and central Thailand. Two Muslim men, arrested in Chumphon province the early hours of Friday morning and linked to a Thursday night hoax bomb at the Royal Thai Police headquarters, are now also understood to be part of the overall plot to cause panic and disruption in Bangkok on Friday. They have been named as Wildon Maha (inset) and Lu-ai Saengae (inset).

A late-night security meeting in Bangkok on Friday chaired the Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan has concluded that the bombings in Bangkok on Friday morning were probably linked to southern insurgents and a similar type of attack which occurred in August 2016 targeting southern and central provinces in Thailand. Thai security chiefs believe that the ‘mastermind’ behind both attacks may the same except that new, unknown foot soldiers were sent to Bangkok to create Friday’s disturbance and panic. The attack aimed to cause embarrassment to Thailand as it hosted the prestigious 52nd meeting ASEAN foreign ministers with envoys from the United States, China and Russia in attendance.

Senior police officer appointed to lead the investigation in Friday’s bombings in Bangkok

The finding of the security and intelligence agencies was confirmed by Thai Police Chief Chakthip Chaijinda. He told reporters that security had been strengthened to combat any threat and that he had appointed Police General Chaiwant Kateworachai to conduct a thorough probe into the bombing spree. This is the same senior police officer who led the investigations to the Erawan Shrine bombing in August 25th which killed 25 people and injured over 100.

Only 5 bombs exploded but 7 were detected

Thai police now report that seven bombs were detected in Bangkok on Friday but that only 5 had exploded causing minor injuries to four people including two city employees on street sweeping duty. The police have also linked the bombings to the fires that went off earlier on Friday morning and revealed that fragments of an explosive type device were found at one of the fire scenes.

Thursday night’s scare now believed to part of the overall plot including bombs and fires

The police have also released photos and the names of the two men arrested by a southern patrol in a follow-up operation following a bomb scare on Thursday evening in front of Royal Thai Police headquarters in Ratchathewi. It is not fully confirmed yet if these two men, both Muslims from Narathiwat province, are linked to the series of explosions and fires in Bangkok on Friday. Police at this point, appear to be linking it with the overall plot.

Two Muslim men named as suspects after early morning arrest on Friday morning in the south

The men were named as Wildon Maha and Lu-ai Saengae. Security sources are already confirming that both are from the Rue So district of the southern Thai province. They were arrested at 2 am on Friday just three hours before the fires started in Bangkok and five hours before the first bomb went off.

Interprovincial bus originated in Mo Chit in Bangkok and stopped in Chumphon province

They were detained by Thai police after they searched an inter-provincial bus emanating from Mo Chit bus terminal outside Bangkok. They were stopped by Thai police at a checkpoint in Chumphon province located within the Wang Pai district. Police officers were looking for Muslim men on the bus. The pair were found to be in possession of parts of an explosive device as well as a small device attached to a battery. One of the men had what is being reported as a steel bottle.

Two men identified on Rama I road when hoax device was planted on Thursday

Police later revealed that the pair were seen on CCTV meeting at Siam BTS Station Bangkok and entering an adjoining mall where they changed clothes. This occurred after the incident where an unarmed device was left outside Royal Thai Headquarters on Rama 1 road on Thursday evening with flashing LED lights. This caused a scare which shut down the BTS train in the area for a number of hours. Both men were at the scene. One of them placed the hoax designed to cause panic while the other stood to watch out for security personnel.

Changed taxis and clothes twice before heading south on Thursday night before the explosions 

From Siam BTS station, the two men then took a taxi to Chatuchak Park where they got out and took another taxi to Mo Chit bus station. At the bus station, they changed clothes again and caught the interprovincial bus heading south.

After they were arrested, they were quickly transferred back to Bangkok for questioning by police. Both men denied any knowledge of being involved in a bombing campaign.

Bombings intended to cause maximum panic and embarrassment for Thai authorities

Senior police officials and bomb experts convening in Bangkok believe that the attacks on Friday were not intended to cause widespread injury to the public but instead to cause panic and alarm. The goal of the attack appears to have been publicity and to cause embarrassment to the country’s leadership as Thailand found itself at the centre of world diplomacy for the ASEAN summit.

Bombs went off just before US Secretary of State Pompeo was to speak in central Bangkok

Security was tightened around the meetings at the Centara Grand Hotel at Central World where the key summit meetings were taking place. The day’s schedule went ahead as planned. Some observers have noted that the bombs went off just before the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was speaking on Friday morning.

PM comes out strongly – no need for extra security powers for the government after bombings

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha has come out strongly against any need to invoke special powers to deal with the threat. The PM did observe that there had been no attacks on Bangkok during the five years of the National Council for Peace and Order.

This was referred to overnight by one security expert who suggested that those behind the attacks on Friday seemed very aware of internal changes in the security apparatus caused by the change of government which for instance, saw Prime Minister Prayut chair his first meeting of the police commission just after the bombs went off. The expert suggested that a combination of a handover of security duties from the army to the police in recent weeks and the deployment of extra police personnel to cover security duties at the ASEAN summit may have allowed the bombers to slip through.

Security officials deny online rumours circulating

The confirmation by the PM that no extra security powers would be needed will help quash online rumours being circulated on social media. These rumours forced the Internal Security Operations Command through its spokesperson Major General Thanathip Sawangsaeng on Friday to dismiss reports of special security measures in the Thai capital following the bombings.

Prayut condemns the bombings ‘which destroyed the people and the country’s image’

The prime minister, however, was deeply unhappy with the events that unfolded on Friday morning and issued a strong statement condemning those behind the fire and bombing blitz: ‘I condemn the mastermind behind this morning’s bomb blasts, which destroyed people and the country’s image. I have asked officials to beef up security for members of the public and take urgent care of those affected by the explosions.’

Good day for Thailand diplomatically

In spite of the bombings, it was a good day for Thailand diplomatically as the ASEAN foreign ministerial meetings went ahead. Don Pramudwinai, Thailand’s Foreign Affairs Minister on Friday confirmed that there would be no change to the summit events and schedule. 

Army boss General Apirat Kongsompong warns that it may be an indication of things to come

The Thai Army Commander-in-Chief, General Apirat Kongsompong, also confirmed the bomb attack as the work of the same group behind the 2016 bombings linked to the southern insurgency. However, he warned that it is an ‘indication that there may be more incidents to come’ as he promised that the military was up to its role in maintaining security.

Khunying Sudarat of Pheu Thai called for the government to bring the bombers to justice

The Pheu Thai chief strategist and one of the party’s most popular figures, Khunying Sudarat Keyuraphan, on Friday afternoon unequivocally condemned the Bangkok bombing for playing with people’s lives. She said that she wanted to see the government bring the perpetrators to justice as quickly as possible.

Further reading:

Bombs and fires set off in Bangkok designed to cause early morning terror in the Thai capital