08/18/2015, 00.00
THAILAND
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Bomb in Bangkok, 22 dead and over a hundred injured. Thai prime minister: the "worst attack ever"

A bomb exploded yesterday near the Erawan Hindu temple, not far from site of past political demonstrations. Shock and fear among residents of the capital. The CCTV cameras have identified a suspect. Government believe attack linked to an opposition group in the north-east

Bangkok (AsiaNews) - Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha has called yesterday evening’s bomb attack in Bangkok, which caused the deaths of at least 22 persons (including seven foreigners) and injured over a hundred people, "he worst attack ever" in the history of the country.  He added that the attack aimed to  "destroy our economy, our tourism". The bomb went off near the Herawan Hindu temple, one of the most important tourist attractions of the capital; the place is located just off the 'Ratchaprasong intersection, the scene of violent political demonstrations in recent years.

So far there have been no claims of responsibility and the authors have not yet been identified. However, CCTV camera’s captured images of a suspect in the blast zone, whom the police are seeking for questioning

The bomb was placed in a very crowded district, to create as much damage as possible. Throughout the capital there is an atmosphere of shock and fear following the attack, coupled with uncertainty about the authors and the motivations for such an act. Experts believe it may be linked to the Muslim separatist war in the south of the country, even if to date there have never been any attacks outside the disputed region.

Other hypotheses include the political tensions that have plagued Thailand in recent years, a nation divided between two opposing factions ("Yellow", monarchists associated the capital elite against the "Reds", who enjoy a broad consensus among the people of the north -east) giving way to violent clashes.

In May last year, the military seized power in a coup, ousting the government of former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra now on trial for corruption. The army chief, now prime minister and head of the military junta, declared a state of emergency and martial law. Recently the government approved a set of rules that critics call liberticide and give broad powers to the leadership to crack down on any form of protest.

In spite of a political climate fraught with tension, so far there had been no clashes, tensions or violence rather a focus on reviving the economy and ensuring a period of relative peace and tranquility. In fact the economy appears to have slowed in the second quarter of the year, with a decrease in demand and a decline in exports. And predictions for the future do not appear to induce optimism, with the devaluation of the Chinese currency that could have an even greater affect in the local market.

Commenting on the attack that struck the heart of Bangkok, the junta chief said investigators are searching for a "suspicious" male seen on the site of the explosion. "Today we have a suspect - said the 61 year old Prayut - which was taken by a CCTV camera, although the image is not entirely clear." He added that it is believed that the man is linked - although there is no official confirmation - "to an anti-government group located in the northeast of Thailand," stronghold of the "Reds" loyal to former premier Thaksin Shinawatra. "We will find him" concluded the head of the government.

The attack could prompt the government to tighten the repressive measures and policies that affect all forms of internal dissent. In the past months arrests, trials and convictions of a political nature have already been reported. "The country is in a desperate situation," said Sunai Phasuk, a researcher at Human Rights Watch (HRW), based in Bangkok. For the expert the restrictions imposed by Premier have ended up targeting more moderate critics, favoring the affirmation of the few radical and violent voices that today are the only way to oppose the powers that be.

The prime minister has repeatedly postponed the date of the general elections, most recently to 2016. However, behind this struggle for the centralization of power and control of the state apparatus there may be the question of the succession to the throne, with the old King Bhumibhol Adulyadej (87 years) ill and unable to guarantee a future kingdom. Prayut is a staunch monarchist and, according to analysts, could stay in power until it the question of succession is defined.

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