May 23, 2017 / 4:58 AM / 3 months ago

Thailand reassures foreigners following Bangkok hospital attack

3 Min Read

A woman walks past Thai military personnel at the Phramongkutklao Hospital in Bangkok, Thailand, May 23, 2017.Chaiwat Subprasom

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Thailand reassured the international community on Tuesday that it would increase security at sensitive locations a day after a bomb exploded at a hospital in the capital, Bangkok, wounding 24 people.

Thailand has been ruled by a junta since a May 2014 coup. The attack on Monday coincided with the third anniversary of the takeover and the army has blamed the incident on groups opposed to military rule.

No group has claimed responsibility for the attack which happened at the military-owned Phramongkutklao Hospital.

"Bombs will have an impact anywhere," Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai told reporters.

"Any action at a hospital violates human rights … I would like the foreigners to know that security forces are looking after this," he said.

Junta spokesman Winthai Suvaree said security would be increased and any measures not working would have to be changed.

Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha said an election expected next year was on track, but he raised the possibility that violence could lead to a delay.

"The election is still proceeding according to the roadmap. I haven't changed anything," Prayuth told reporters after a weekly cabinet meeting.

"I want everyone to think: if the country is still like this, with bombs, weapons, and conflicts among people ... can we hold an election?"

One of the most popular holiday destinations in Southeast Asia, Thailand attracted 32.6 million visitors last year, a rise of nearly 9 percent from the previous year.

Safety Questions

But Thailand has been rocked by attacks, including a series of explosions last year at beach locations and a bomb at a Bangkok shrine popular with Asian tourists in 2015, which raised questions about safety.

The shrine blast killed 20 people, 14 of them foreigners, while the attacks on the beach towns killed four Thais and wounded dozens, including foreigners.

The beach attacks came a day after Thais voted overwhelmingly to accept a military-backed constitution that critics say will entrench military power.

The military seized power on May 22, 2014, to end months of protests aimed at overthrowing a government led by a populist movement that has won every election since 2001.

The coup was Thailand's 12th military takeover since the end of absolute monarchy in 1932.

Muslim separatists fighting for years in the deep south of the predominantly Buddhist country have been responsible for many bombs, while angry supporters of ousted populist governments have also been involved in small bomb attacks.

On Tuesday, a bomb in the southern province of Yala, where the Muslim rebels operate, killed two army rangers.

On May 15, a small bomb went off near Bangkok's National Theatre, wounding two people. It was not clear who was behind it. An explosion outside a former government lottery office on April 5 wounded two.

Army chief General Chalermchai Sitthisat said on Monday he believed the two earlier blasts were linked to the hospital attack, adding that the material used to make the bombs was the same.

Reporting by Amy Sawitta Lefevre, Panarat Thepgumpanat and Pracha Hariraksapitak; Additional reporting by Aukkarapon Niyomyat and Patpicha Tanakasempipat; Writing by Amy Sawitta Lefevre; Editing by Michael Perry, Robert Birsel

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