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 Monday, January 01, 2007

Thailand: Bomb Blasts on New Year's Eve in Bangkok and Chengmai

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At least six small bombs exploded around Bangkok late Sunday, followed by two more just after midnight, killing two people and injuring at least 28 in a city that remains under martial law following a coup three months ago.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility.

The two bombs that exploded moments after midnight near a downtown mall injured eight people, including six foreigners, the police said today.

The national police chief said he doubted that Muslim insurgents from southern Thailand were involved, leaving the likelihood that the violence was tied to the country’s continuing political tensions.

“The bombs exploded almost simultaneously,” said Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont as he visited the injured at a hospital following the first six explosions. “It must have been planned.” But he said it was too early to conclude who was responsible.

Police officers were sent to guard the sites of the bombings and to secure other possible targets. Hotels tightened security, shopping malls closed early and the police cleared the Khao San Road walking street, where backpackers from around the world gather at New Year’s.

The national police chief, Gen. Ajirawit Suphanaphesat, said Sunday night that at least six bombs exploded and that the police were inspecting suspicious packages in several other areas. Officials said two people had been killed and more than 20 injured in scattered locations that included a bus stop, a parking area near a shopping mall, a small open market and two police posts.

Bangkok’s mayor, Apirak Kosayothin, carried out the New Year’s countdown in a public square more than three hours early.

Due to several bomb explosions in Bangkok and for the sake of peace and security, I would ask all of you to return to your homes now,” he told a crowd of 5,000 people. The police then began clearing the square.

Some people remained in the streets, however, waving from behind television reporters at the scenes of some of the bombings.

Police reinforcements have been sent to various areas in the city,” said the government’s spokesman, Yongyuth Malyalarp. “We urge the public to remain calm.”

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