Bangkok Bombing: All you need to know

Photo: AFP

The recent bombing at the Erawan shrine in Bangkok that killed 20 people and injured 125 has peaked international interests. It has gained attention worldwide, with Australia’s Prime Minister Tony Abbott even offering investigators to aid in the search for the terrorists.

The situation in Thailand, however, is far more delicate, yet strong, than one might expect. When reports concluded the attack was at a popular Hindu/Buddhist shrine, many assumed the bombing had religious motivations, and many comparisons were drawn to international terror organizations such as Islamic State or the Taliban.

The Thai government cleared all international terror groups, suggesting the attack was either done by a “lone wolf” terrorist or a domestic terror group. Many Thai people automatically assumed it was done by a terror group associated with the anti-government redshirt movement.

Redshirts protesting Thaksin Shinawatra. Photo: IPCS

The redshirt movement is a movement loyal to both Thaksin and Yingluck Shinawatra. Thaksin, the former Prime Minister of Thailand, was exiled after a coup in 2006. He was succeeded by his sister, Yingluck Shinawatra, who was similarly overthrown in a coup in 2013. She was later indicted on corruption and abuse of power charges.

At 44, Yingluck Shinawatra was the youngest Thai Prime Minister, as well as the first woman to hold office. Photo: AP

The redshirt movement is vehemently opposed to the current Thai military junta, publicly protesting them many times. The government responded with banning political gatherings of five or more people. The redshirt movement, inspired by “umbrella protests” in Hong Kong, countered by creating “sandwich protests” wherein people would eat sandwiches publicly as a form of protest. The government cracked down on these people as well.

Many people instead think that the bombers didn’t belong to a renegade redshirt group, but actually belonged to the royalist yellowshirt movement. These claims are founded in several claims based off the investigation of the bombing itself.

CCTV footage was released showing the Bangkok bomber dropping his bomb (concealed in a duffel bag) and leaving the area. Many people noticed the fact that the bomber wore a yellow shirt when he performed the action. Some thought this to mean that he was a supporter of the yellowshirt movement.

Released images of the bomber. Photo: EPA

The yellowshirts are a pro-middle class and pro-royal political pressure group, who were successful in pressuring the King to dissolve parliament and remove Thaksin Shinawatra from power in 2006. They were similarly opposed to his sister, Yingluck, with key members resorting to storming the government offices in 2008, when she was elected.

The yellowshirt movement is in favor of the military junta. Many find the claims that they performed the bombing absurd, as they are attacking the government, an organization they favor. Others claim that the bombing was actually organized by the government itself, in an attempt to add legitimacy to its position and power. These people point to the record time it took to clean up the crime scene and open it up to the public. So fast and unthorough was the clean up, that a BBC reporter reporting on the clean up found a piece of shrapnel from the bombing which the investigation team failed to find. The police also seemed reluctant to take in the shrapnel later, further adding to the claims.

Many internationally seem to think it obvious that there would be opposition to government, as it is a military junta, but this is not that uncommon in Thailand. There is a clause in the Thai constitution allowing the king, who retains lese majeste powers, to dissolve parliament and allow the brief takeover by the military so as to let them act as an interim government until the next one is elected. This happens so often in Thai history that, since the establishment of the current monarchy in 1932, there have been 25 elections and 19 coups, 12 being successful. These coups are also known for being very non-violent, as they tend to be sanctioned by the king.

King Bhumibol Adulyadej (Rama IX) and his wife, Queen Sirikit. Rama is the world’s longest serving head of state. Photo: AFP

Many still argue over the Bangkok Bombing, and who has perpetrated it and why. It is very strange for someone to perform an act of terrorism and not acknowledge it, but that is exactly what has happened. Nobody or group has claimed responsibility, leading the government to claim the attack’s sole purpose was to destabilize the government.

While there is no conclusive proof to allow any person to accurately claim who performed the bombing, it is important to know the scarce information there is and the background to that information to get a clear view of the incident. The Update wishes to keep you informed on the events of the world stage, with a view from all angles, so that you may make your own decision on why these events transpired.

Sources for this article include The Guardian, BBC, Wikipedia and The Discovery Network