Police look for suspects after bombs hit tourist sites

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Police look for suspects after bombs hit tourist sites
Investigators work at the scene of an explosion in the resort town of Hua Hin, Friday, Aug. 12. (AP Photo/Jerry Harmer)

Hua Hin (AP) — Locals and tourists headed warily into the main part of the long holiday weekend Saturday as police looked for suspects and a motive behind the series of blasts that shook resort towns across Thailand, killing four people and wounding dozens more.

There was no claim of responsibility for the attacks Thursday and Friday, which followed a successful referendum last weekend on the new constitution.

“We hope we may have some suspects today or tomorrow,” Police Gen. Pongsapat Pongcharoen, a deputy national police chief, told reporters Saturday. He did not elaborate, but said police were gathering evidence and that international militant groups were not believed to be behind the attacks.

He said the perpetrators are believed to belong to the same networks and still inside the country. Police said firebombs also triggered blazes at markets and shops in six places, including Phuket, Trang, Surat Thani, Phang Nga and a souvenir shop in the tourist town of Ao Nang, Krabi.

Speaking late Friday, Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha said the attacks “struck at the hearts of all Thai people.”

Royal Thai Police Col. Krisana Patanacharoen said that it was “too early to conclude” who was behind the attacks. But he said the bombings followed “a similar pattern used in the southern parts of the country”.

The violence occurred just ahead of the first anniversary of the Aug. 17 bombing of Bangkok’s popular Erawan Shrine, which left 20 dead and injured more than 120 others. Authorities said that bombing was revenge by a people-smuggling gang whose activities were disrupted by a crackdown, but analysts suspect it might have been the work of Uighur separatists angry that Thailand forcibly repatriated more than 100 Uighurs to China.

Foreign governments, including the United States, issued warnings urging travelers to use caution and avoid affected areas. Many of the tourists interviewed Saturday were resuming their vacations while keeping an eye for any sign of trouble.

“We feel pretty safe. At first we had a lot of mixed feelings, because we didn’t know the area well enough,” said Lexus Chlorad, 21, from New York, after arriving in Hua Hin on Friday afternoon.

Carl Suensson, 68, from Sweden, said Saturday that “today it’s pretty OK, but yesterday was scary.”

“We follow the news 24 hours. Wherever there’s a lot of people, like the market, bars behind Hilton, the train station, we try to avoid it,” he added.