Authorities ordered tighter security in southern Thailand on Thursday after two bombs exploded at a beach, damaging an iconic bronze statue of a mermaid but causing no injuries.
No group had claimed responsibility for the blasts that occurred late Wednesday on Samila Beach in Songkhla province, but Gov. Weeranan Pengchan told reporters that investigators were probing whether the explosions were linked to Muslim separatist insurgents in the region.
“[The blasts] are likely linked to insurgents. But to specify exactly, we need time for officials to work on it,” Weeranan told a news conference.
“We ordered tighter security and a top alert in Songkhla’s risky areas, including Hat Yai,” said Weeranan, referring to the province’s biggest city where suspected insurgents also carried out a bomb attack that killed four people and injured more than 80 on Sept. 16, 2006.
Prior to the Wednesday blasts, members of the rebel group National Revolutionary Front, or BRN, had recently met at a school in Songkhla’s Chana district, a security official, who asked not to be identified, told BenarNews.
“It is likely the work of BRN,” he said. “Officials were warned of possible attacks.”
Hat Yai sits outside the predominantly Muslim and Malay-speaking region known as the Deep South, where nearly 7,000 people have been killed since 2004 in violence related to the insurgency. The troubled region encompasses the provinces of Pattani, Yala, Narathiwat and four districts of Songkhla.
One of the explosions slashed the tail of the Golden Mermaid, a bronze sculpture built in 1966 that has become popular with foreign tourists, police said. The other explosion occurred about 300 meters (984 feet) away and close to a giant sculpture of a mouse on the same beach.
On the same day, security forces also found two explosive devices at power posts that had been cut off in Kuan Niang, another district of Songkhla, and four similar bombs tied up on power poles in Bang Klam district.
Weeranan quoted investigators as saying that the bombs may have been planted at the same time as the explosives that damaged the mermaid sculpture.
Police Lt. Gen. Ronnasilp Phusara, who commands the Provincial Police Region 9, said the bombs that damaged the Golden Mermaid could be classified as an improvised explosive device or IED, which was packed in a small iron box and used an inexpensive watch as a timing device.
The IEDs found in the two other districts had the same design, he said.
“The goal is to ruin the province’s economy and disrupt New Year festivities,” he said.
But the Bangkok Post quoted him as saying that Wednesday’s bombings were not politically motivated and likely linked to business disputes.