© 2024 Milwaukee Public Media is a service of UW-Milwaukee's College of Letters & Science
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Bombing At Hindu Temple In Bangkok Kills At Least 20


In Thailand today, police released footage of a man they say is a suspect in yesterday's bomb blast. That bombing, at a Hindu temple in the middle of Bangkok's tourist district, left at least 20 people dead, including nine foreigners, and more than 100 injured. Michael Sullivan joins us now from Bangkok.

And Michael, what more have you learned?

MICHAEL SULLIVAN, BYLINE: We know that the Thai authorities - which is to say, the military, and to a lesser extent, the police - say the CCTV footage has found a guy - a guy wearing a yellow shirt and wearing a backpack who sat down at the Erawan shrine you referred to, the Hindu shine in front of one of the malls, hotels, at the intersection, before the blast then left shortly before the blast occurred, and the backpack didn't go with him. So the authorities say that pretty much proves that he's their guy, though they say they're not sure whether he's Thai or foreign. Some officials suggested today they were close at busting the whole thing open, but we'll see. And you've got to remember, this is a military dictatorship pretty much, with a military-appointed interim parliament. And even though they pledged to return the country to democracy soon - they said it would be within a year after the coup in May 2014 - it hasn't happened yet and probably won't happen, they say, till 2017.

CORNISH: So they're looking for this bomber. Does this mean that they have a broader sense of who's responsible?

SULLIVAN: That's not really clear, but there are a lot of ideas out there but there's no real proof. Here's the top three ideas - that it's anti-military people unhappy with the coup almost a year and a half on, unhappy with the economy, with the new constitution the military's drafting that appears to limit the power of elected officials in the future. There's another theory that the attack is the work of Uighurs, citizens of Western China, Muslims, who say they've been discriminated against by the Han Chinese majority. Thailand deported more than a hundred Uighurs who fled China to Thailand about a month ago, and despite criticism from the international community, they were sent back. And the last theory - that this may be the work of Muslim separatists in the south of the country that have been fighting the Thai military for about a decade now, a fight that's cost about 5,000 lives. But even the Thai military says that this just isn't the style of the guys in the south.

CORNISH: You've talked about the politics here. Help us understand the effect that this could have on the Thai economy, obviously already suffering after a coup there last year.

SULLIVAN: Yeah, it's not going to have a good effect. I mean, immediately after the coup, lots of Western governments showed their disapproval, issued travel warnings. And that's still being felt here in a big way, in terms of Western arrivals, anyway. And the economy hasn't been doing real well since the coup. Is it foreign businesses reluctant to invest? Is it the military men not knowing how to run an economy? I don't know. But the upshot is things aren't going so well, and the Thai currency - the Thai baht - today reached a new six-year low against the dollar. So the markets seem to be voting.

CORNISH: That's Michael Sullivan speaking to us from Bangkok.

Michael thanks so much.

SULLIVAN: You're welcome Audie. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Michael Sullivan is NPR's Senior Asia Correspondent. He moved to Hanoi to open NPR's Southeast Asia Bureau in 2003. Before that, he spent six years as NPR's South Asia correspondent based in but seldom seen in New Delhi.