Thai tourism minister assures foreign tourists of safety following Bangkok bomb blasts

BANGKOK (THE NATION/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) – Thailand’s Tourism and Sports Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakan visited Bangkok‘s Chinatown on Friday night (Aug 2) in a bid to restore the confidence of foreign tourists of their safety in the country following a series of bomb attacks earlier in the day.

Mr Phiphat and his staff and officials from the ministry visited Yaowarat at night after explosions at five locations in Bangkok shook public confidence. He greeted and shook hands with foreign tourists and assured them that the situation was under control.

Mr Phiphat later told reporters that the bomb incidents would not affect Thailand’s tourism in general.

The ministry has instructed the Tourist Police Bureau, the Tourism Authority of Thailand, the Tourism Standard and Tourist Safety Division and other agencies of the ministry to monitor the situation and ensure the safety of tourists.

Mr Phiphat said agencies of the tourism ministry had been instructed to dispatch officials to key tourist destinations to rebuild confidence among foreign tourists.

He said the situation was under control and police in uniform and plain clothes had stepped up security at all major locations “for the utmost safety of Thais and foreigners, who may visit the Kingdom during vacations or for business”.

Mr Phiphat said tourists can call tourist police on 1155 at anytime when they encounter untoward incidents.

Meanwhile, a security affairs expert and former adviser to the prime minister on security affairs believes the perpetrators of the multiple blasts in Bangkok on Friday morning had inside information about the government’s security affairs.

Panitan Wattanayagorn, a lecturer at Chualongkorn University’s Faculty of Political Science, said more than one person might have been involved in planning and ordering the bomb attacks.

He said the masterminds could be called “insiders” because they were apparently aware about the handling of security affairs by government agencies during the transitional period after the end of the rule of the junta – the National Council for Peace and Order.

“The planners, who gave the orders, apparently knew about certain mechanisms well. For example, they knew about the handing over of areas and missions of the national peacekeeping force to the police,” Mr Panitan said.

“This led to a vacuum because the withdrawal of troops of the peacekeeping force brought to a halt the use of Article 44 (of the post-coup charter) and led to troops ending their monitoring and pressuring those with the potential to engage in violence.

“The police have a working style different from that of the soldiers, or the police might not have started working to the full extent yet.”

Mr Panitan said one factor that provided an opportunity for the bombers to launch the attacks was the large deployment of the police force for security at the venue of the Asean Foreign Ministers’ meeting in Bangkok.

Mr Panitan said he believed the bomb attacks were likely planned for a long time and there might have been some trial runs to see if the bombers were well prepared before the attacks were launched when the masterminds saw a window of opportunity.

“They definitely knew about the internal affairs of the government well. In particular, they knew about the handing over of duties from the peacekeeping force. They knew about the change of command from the deputy prime minister to the prime minister.

“In other words, there were both changes of personnel and in the chain of command. More importantly, there was a change of government. Although the prime minister, the deputy prime minister and the interior minister continue in the new government, the situation has changed,” Mr Panitan said.

Two men from Narathiwat province have reportedly been arrested for allegedly dropping two fake bombs in front of the Royal Thai Police headquarters in Bangkok on Thursday evening before the five blasts in the capital on Friday morning.