Thai police running hospital bomb probe as security reviewed

AP News
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Posted: May 23, 2017 4:24 AM
Thai police running hospital bomb probe as security reviewed

BANGKOK (AP) — Thailand's ruling junta said Tuesday that police will handle the investigation into a bombing at a military-run hospital that wounded more than 20 people, while security elsewhere in the country is being reviewed.

Junta spokesman Col Winthai Suvaree told reporters that police will be responsible for providing updates about the investigation into the blast at Bangkok's Phramongkutklao Hospital on Monday, the third anniversary of the military coup that brought the junta to power. The blast follows another that wounded two people at the National Theater last week.

Winthai said officials would coordinate with police to review security around the country.

"They have to determine important points like government buildings, or populated areas. They have to adjust whatever needs to be adjusted," he said.

Soldiers patrolled the hospital grounds Tuesday as an investigation continued. It was not immediately clear who was behind the explosion or if it was linked to the anniversary of the 2014 military coup, which overthrew a democratically elected government amid sometimes violent street protests staged by its opponents and supporters.

Army chief Gen. Chalermchai Sittisart said Monday that it appeared that the explosion and two earlier blasts in recent weeks used similar explosive materials and were likely part of an attempt to disrupt the government.

"All of this was conducted with the goal of creating disorder to the administrative work of the government and NCPO," he said, referring to the National Council for Peace and Order, the official name of the ruling junta.

But he cautioned that "we shouldn't conclude anything yet" about who was behind the attack.

Police said investigators found remnants of batteries and wires at the scene of the blast.

The explosion wounded 21 people, one of them severely, said Lt. Gen. Saroj Kiewkajee, a hospital official. Thirteen were discharged soon after the explosion. Phramongkutklao is a military-run hospital that is also open to civilians

New York-based Human Rights Watch condemned the attack as an inexcusable crime.

"The bombing of a hospital is an outrageous rights abuse that shows total disregard for human life," Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said late Monday. "Bombing hospitals not only risks the lives of patients and medical workers, but disrupts medical care for many more."

Since the 2014 coup, at least six explosions have occurred in Bangkok. Last week, a bomb went off in front of the country's National Theater, wounding two people. Last month, a similar explosion took place in front of an old government lottery office, also wounding two.

Those blasts used similar explosives but did far less physical damage than Monday's bomb, the army chief said.

"This bomb was meant to cause casualties as it was packed with a large number of nails," Chalermchai said.

Most of the bombs in Bangkok have caused only minor damage, except for a blast in August 2015 that killed about 20 people near a popular Hindu shrine.