Grenade blast at temple festival kills four, injures 58
A grenade explosion rocked the Phra That Na Dun Festival in Maha Sarakham province late on Sunday night, killing three people and injuring 58 others.As of press time, 29 of the injured remained hospitalised, while five - including the man who allegedly brought the M67 grenade to the event - were under intensive care.
Killed at the scene were two policemen, Senior Sgt Major Weerayut Kongprakom and 3rd Master Sgt Padej Singsanan, as well as 12-year-old Thirakarn Panamatang. The boy had travelled with his parents from Surin to take part in the festival when the grenade went off. Another civilian, Sontichai Tinburan, succumbed to injuries in hospital.
The annual festival at the ancient temple is being held from February 23 to March 3 this year. After the explosion, some 200 security officials have been mobilised to provide extra security.
According to witness reports, a skirmish erupted within the crowds while Pong Lang Sa On band was performing on stage.
During the brawl, a man - later identified as Winai Jeknam, 32 - was seen holding up a grenade and refused to hand it over despite pleas from police and security volunteers. Then the officials decided to take it off him forcibly.
"I grasped his legs, and when others rushed in to help and I retreated," Pol Senior Sgt-Major Sa-nga Kamchu said.
However, the grenade went off in the commotion.
"I think somebody dropped the grenade accidentally," the 49-year-old policeman said.
Maha Sarakham police chief Maj-General Jarernwit Sriwanich said apart from casualties, the explosion also created a metre-wide hole on the ground.
"The M67 grenade can harm people and objects within 40-metre radius," he said.
Meanwhile, National Police Commissioner General Adul Saengsingkaew presided over the bathing ritual for the two killed policemen yesterday afternoon.
"They were killed on duty. Their families will receive full assistance in line with regulations," Jarernwit said.
According to police, Winai had a criminal record and had been given 20 years in jail over another attack, but his sentence was commuted to nine years. Then in 2010, he was arrested again for illegally carrying a gun and is believed to have developed some mental-disorder in recent years.
Police have yet to question Winai, who lost an arm during the blast.
"His condition is critical," Public Health Ministry inspector- general Dr Apichai Mongkhon said yesterday, adding that a policeman had also sustained serious injuries and had been transferred to Khon Kaen hospital for surgery.
"All victims will receive free medical treatment," Apichai said.