Confusion reigns after deadly blasts
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Confusion reigns after deadly blasts

Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister in charge of security Gen Prawit Wongsuwon makes a point in talking with troops on his 71st birthday last week. (Photo by Pattanapong Hirunard)
Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister in charge of security Gen Prawit Wongsuwon makes a point in talking with troops on his 71st birthday last week. (Photo by Pattanapong Hirunard)

This is supposed to be illuminating: Following a spate of bomb and arson attacks in seven provinces last week, Deputy Prime Minister in charge of security affairs Gen Prawit Wongsuwon said yesterday the strikes were definitely about domestic issues and not linked to other countries.

He also urged the public to wait and see as authorities still have no idea who was behind the attacks.

So Gen Prawit does not know which individuals or groups planted the multiple bombs but knows the incidents were certainly about domestic affairs?

Is the apparent contradiction supposed to sound reassuring?

Atiya Achakulwisut is Contributing Editor, Bangkok Post.

Confusion reigned as soon as news spread about 13 bomb and arson attacks in central and southern provinces last Thursday and Friday.

The National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) quickly said "evidence" pointed to fallout from the charter referendum and political parties affected by its endorsement as a possible cause.

The military regime was also quick to rule out southern insurgents from being involved in the seemingly coordinated attacks. No foreign terrorism was suspected, the NCPO said from the beginning.

The next day, however, "evidence" seems to have emerged that the home-made explosive devices behind the attacks were similar to those used in the Deep South.

Also, Malaysia's Bernama news agency reported that a mobile phone used to trigger an explosion in Phuket on Friday contained a Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission serial number. In a follow-up report yesterday, the news agency said the Royal Malaysian Police received the fragment with the serial number from Thai security officials and pledged full cooperation.

Assistant national police chief Pol Lt Gen Suchart Theerasawat acknowledged similarities in explosive devices but said it was too early to conclude the blasts were carried out by people linked to the southern insurgency.

His statement may be ambivalent and not very politically savvy but it should have been one adopted by all authority figures as investigations proceeded.

Unfortunately, some top officials must have felt the need to give public assurances that the situation was under control, that progress was being made, or simply shift blame on to their enemies. That is why they have brushed aside causes and suspects on a daily basis while admitting in the same breath they still have no clue who is behind the attack.

Such daily babbling is not reassuring to the public. It's confusing. Confusion is sure to lead to rumours and speculation. That is why we are seeing people blaming former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, the red-shirt United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship, the Deep South's insurgent group Barisan Revolusi Nasional, even the military regime itself for the latest spate of bombings as all of them seem to stand to gain something from instability.

Theories put forth by professional as well as amateur analysts about who or which group is the likeliest perpetrator of the blasts have muddled public perception. Once again, political hatred seems to have bloomed while we Thais remain in the dark as to who planned and carried out the deadly attacks.

It does not help either that the military has "invited" an unknown number of people in for questioning at unidentified locations using power under the unaccountable Section 44.

NCPO spokesman Piyapong Klinpan may insist that the military is taking good care of these people and doing everything under the law but the secretive nature of the investigation and the fact that some of these people are said to be political activists associated with groups opposing the military regime could compromise the probe's legitimacy.

It is understandable that the military regime and security officials want to reassure the public. That is why they keep saying that the situation has returned to normal as they continue to downplay a possible link with southern insurgents.

Authorities need to stop providing confusing opinions. The blasts, which killed four and injured 37 people, are by certainly vicious acts of sabotage.

The public deserves to know that security authorities have the means and ability to track down the perpetrators and bring them to justice. But that is not enough. We also need to know that authorities can find out how coordinated attacks occurred even when we are under strict military control and how future attacks can be avoided.

It's that kind of knowledge that will restore public confidence.

Atiya Achakulwisut

Columnist for the Bangkok Post

Atiya Achakulwisut is a columnist for the Bangkok Post.

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