BANGKOK: A bomb on a motorcycle exploded on Monday just outside a Hindu shrine in the Thai capital, killing at least 16 people, including three foreign tourists, media reported, in an attack the government said was a bid to destroy the economy.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blast at the Erawan shrine at a major city-centre intersection. Thai forces are fighting a low-level Muslim insurgency in the predominantly Buddhist country’s south, but those rebels have rarely launched attacks outside their ethnic Malay heartland.
“The perpetrators intended to destroy the economy and tourism, because the incident occurred in the heart of the tourism district,” Defense Minister Prawit Wongsuwan said.
The Erawan shrine, on a busy corner near top hotels, shopping centres, offices and a hospital, is a major attraction, especially for visitors from East Asia, including China. Many ordinary Thais also worship there.
The government would set up a “war room” to coordinate the response to the blast, the Nation television channel quoted Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha as saying.
Two people from China and one from the Philippines were among the dead, a tourist police officer said.
Domestic media said 27 people had been killed, 10 of them men and 17 women. Police said 78 people were wounded. Media said most of them were from China and Taiwan.
“It was like a meat market,” said Marko Cunningham, a New Zealand paramedic working with a Bangkok ambulance service, who said the blast had left a two metre wide crater.
“There were bodies everywhere. Some were shredded. There were legs where heads were supposed to be. It was horrific,” Cunningham said, adding that people several hundred metres away had been injured.