Hospital bomb tied to other blasts

national May 23, 2017 01:00

By THE NATION

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25 hurt in explosion at army facility on anniversary of coup; unknown network blamed for 2 other similar attacks.



THE BOMBING of an Army hospital in downtown Bangkok yesterday was carried out by the same network behind blasts near the National Theatre on May 15 and the old Government Lottery Office on April 5, Army commander-in-chief General Sitthisart Chalermchai said.

“The three attacks including the one at Phramongkutklao Hospital used the same kind of explosives, which are pipe bombs. The same group is behind the three strikes, but I cannot say now which group it is,” he said.

The explosion targeted a room on the first floor of the hospital near Victory Monument in Ratchathewi district in broad daylight, injuring 25 patients waiting to have prescriptions filled. 

The attack is likely to be linked to politics, as it occurred on the third anniversary of the 2014 coup led by then-Army chief General Prayut Chan-o-cha, who is now prime minister. 

The blast also occurred in the “Wongsuwan” room, named in honour of Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwan, Prayut’s right-hand man.

Other rooms in the vicinity are named after other high-ranking Army officers such as General Prem Tinsulandonda and General Chavalit Yongchaiyudh.

An initial investigation determined that the explosives were planted in a green vase that contained artificial flowers, which was placed on a chair in the room. As of press time, authorities did not know when the vase had been placed there and Chalermchai said they were checking hospital |security camera footage.

Meanwhile, the prime minister asked the public not to panic over the attack and ordered an immediate investigation, the Government Spokesman Lt-General Sansern Kaewkamnerd said.

Prayut learnt the details of the attack from the defence minister and Army commander-in-chief. Sansern said the hospital had already sealed off the scene pending an investigation.

Initial confusion

When news about the explosion broke shortly after 10.30am, it was reported that it may have been caused by a gas leak or a faulty air-conditioner compressor. 

However, deputy national police chief Pol General Srivara Rangsibhramanakul investigated the scene for about an hour, then said it had been caused by a bomb.

Srivara said an integrated-circuit timer, pieces of wires and a battery were found at the scene. He also condemned the assault, saying even insurgents in the far South had never bombed a hospital.

National Human Rights Commissioner Angkhana Neelapaijit denounced the attack, saying it was an inhumane act. She said she was truly upset that the attackers had chosen to attack a hospital.

“Although Phramongkutklao Hospital is an Army hospital, it treats everybody without discrimination. It does not treat only Army officers,” she said.

Angkhana said that if the attack was planned to mark the third anniversary of the coup, it should be regarded as an unspeakable act of terror because a hospital should not be the target of conflicts. 

“Even during war time, hospitals, medical personnel and innocent people are protected. 

“I want to condemn the attack on a medical centre that injured patients and relatives waiting for medical care. The attack on a hospital absolutely |violated international human rights laws. The attackers’ acts are considered brutal and inhumane,” she said.

Of the 25 people injured in the blast, eight were still in hospital yesterday, one in serious condition, according to the Army Medical Department. 

The explosion caused minor injuries to many people, said department chief Lt-General Saroj Keokajee, but he added that most of the injured had been discharged. 

One woman would need surgery to remove shrapnel from her face, he said.

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