Two women were injured when a pipe bomb blew up Wednesday night near Bangkok’s Grand Palace and Monument of Democracy, police said, on the eve of the ceremonial signing of Thailand’s new constitution by King Maha Vajiralongkorn.
The explosion was the first bomb blast to hit the Thai capital since 20 people were killed and 125 injured in the bombing of the Erawan Shrine, a popular tourist spot in Bangkok, on Aug. 17, 2015.
Two Uyghur men are standing trial over charges stemming from that incident, but police had little information available on who may have planted the bomb that went off at around 8 p.m. Wednesday as a municipal sanitation worker emptied a trash bin.
“The bomb exploded in front of the old national lottery office, at Rajadamnoen Klang Road. A Bangkok janitor cleaned up the area and the bomb went off. She suffered a slight injury,” police Col. Pitak Suthikul, chief of the Chanasongkram district police station whose jurisdiction covers the bomb site, told reporters, according to local news reports.
Thai media identified the injured sanitation worker as Suriyaporn Pulsombat and a passer-by who was injured as Pimwara Raweenopasit.
The bomb was a low-powered explosive device made from black powder and PVC piping. Moving it could have caused it to ignite, said police Col. Kamthon Uycharoen, the chief of the police bomb squad who inspected the scene.
“It’s not an act of terrorism or an act to stir unrest,” National Police Chief Gen. Chakthip Chaichinda told Reuters.
According to police Maj. Gen. Surachate Hakpan, the commander of police emergency services, the bomb likely belonged to members of a youth motorbike gang who left it in the bin to elude a police checkpoint in the area, according to reports.
The explosion occurred the night before Thailand’s new king is scheduled to sign the country’s 20th constitution in 85 years in a formality that will clear the path for the first elections promised by the Thai military since it seized power in a May 2014 coup.
The charter, which passed in a referendum last year, is controversial because it allows the military to retain influence over government, such as by allowing 250 senators appointed by the junta to join 500 elected MPs in picking a new prime minister for a five-year term.
Wednesday’s blast also occurred a week before the nation will hold festivities to mark the Thai New Year. In the run-up to the festivities, which will take place from April 13 to 15, police have stepped up security measures across the capital, including mounting checkpoints and searching vehicles for explosives and other weapons.