A series of apparently coordinated blasts across Thailand, including in the tourism hotspots of Hua Hin and Phuket, have left at least four dead and dozens injured.Police said 10 foreigners were injured in the violence, some of the worst in the country since the military seized power in a coup two years ago.Thai police are on alert for further bombings after the attacks late on Thursday and early on Friday. No responsibility has been claimed for the bombings but Thai authorities were quick to rule out Islamist or international terrorism, instead blaming “local sabotage”.“This is not a terrorist attack. It is just local sabotage that is restricted to limited areas and provinces,” the national police deputy spokesman, Piyapan Pingmuang, told reporters in Bangkok.The most devastating explosions occurred overnight in the resort city of Hua Hin.
A Thai woman was killed and about 20 people injured when two bombs hidden in plant pots on a busy street exploded just before midnight on Thursday. Early on Friday another bomb exploded near a clock tower, killing one person and wounding four more.In Trang province in the south, one man was killed and six injured when a device exploded close to the house of the provincial police chief, police said.Further south on Phuket island, a blast injured one person on Patong beach, a resort area on the west coast popular with tourists. There were two further explosions in front of police stations in Surat Thani, where one person was killed, and two blasts outside a market in Phang Nga. The blasts appeared to have been coordinated to target tourist hotspots around the country, and came just a few days before the first anniversary of a devastating bombing at a Hindu shrine in Bangkok in which 22 people died and more than 100 were wounded.At the time Thai authorities said that attack was motivated by a criminal gang’s anger over a police crackdown on its people-smuggling operations. The blast was never formally claimed by any group.The Thai prime minister and leader of the military junta, Prayut Chan-o-cha, has ordered an increase in security across urban areas and districts popular with tourists, but also called for calm. “The bombs are an attempt to create chaos and confusion,” Prayut was quoted by AFP as saying. “We should not make people panic more.”He added: “Why have the bombs occurred as our country is heading towards stability, a better economy and tourism – and who did it? You have to find out.”The bombings will hit Thailand’s tourism this summer. Tourism accounts for 10% of the country’s gross domestic product.Police said four of the injured tourists were from Germany, three from the Netherlands, two from Italy and one from Austria.The British government advised against travel to public places in the vicinity of Hua Hin and urged travellers to follow the advice of local authorities. A statement read: “We are seeking further information following incidents in Hua Hin in Thailand. We stand ready to provide assistance to any British nationals involved.”Hua Hin, on the Gulf of Thailand, is popular with wealthy Thais from the capital who buy apartments in high-rise blocks overlooking the sea. Hundreds of European retirees have made Hua Hin their home, enjoying the wide sandy beach, while a younger generation of kitesurfers exploit the onshore winds.Shane Brett, a tourist who witnessed the aftermath of the first bombing on Thursday night, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation: “I was at a bar in the main bar district in Hua Hin right outside the Hilton hotel and at first I heard kind of a bang … and everyone kind of panicked.”He said he looked outside the bar and saw people running. Half an hour later, he made it back to his hotel. On the way, he said, he saw “a good few people injured and the whole area just panicking … the whole area was just shut down with police cars, ambulances.”The timing of the attack suggests it might have been an attempt to embarrass the military government, which took power two years ago. In a speech on Wednesday night Prayuth had taken credit for bringing stability back to Thailand after an extended period of unrest.The first blasts took place on the eve of the birthday of Queen Sirikit in a town where she and King Bhumibol Adulyadej have a summer palace. The ruling junta has declared that defending the monarchy is its priority, especially as there is concern about the process to succeed the ailing 88-year-old king, the world’s longest reigning monarch.Prayuth’s speech followed a referendum on Sunday that approved his government’s proposed new constitution, which is supposed to lead to an election next year. Critics of the charter say it is undemocratic and fashioned to keep the military in control for at least five more years even if a free election is held.Thailand has a history of violence in southern areas from an ongoing, low-level insurgency, but bloodshed rarely spreads to Phuket or Hua Hin. Trang, however, is on the fringes of Thailand’s deep south, where a Muslim separatist insurgency has killed more than 5,000 people since 2004. Almost all the violence has been in the three southernmost provinces, which Trang does not directly abut.Thaksin Shinawatra was ousted as prime minister in 2006 in a military coup after he was accused of corruption, abuse of power and insulting King Bhumibol. His removal set off sometimes bloody battles for power between his supporters and opponents, including the military. His sister Yingluck Shinawatra, who became prime minister in 2011, was ousted in a 2014 army takeover.