Thai Capital at Risk of Politically Motivated Bombings

Two men were arrested on Saturday 7 March for throwing a hand grenade at the Criminal Court building in the capital, Bangkok. The incident caused only minor damage to the adjacent parking lot, but a gunfight ensued when the suspects tried to escape the scene, slightly injuring one of them. The duo was later convicted to a five-month jail sentence amid fears of a larger bomb plot involving over 100 locations across Thailand. One of the suspects allegedly confessed to being part of a politically motivated plot to instigate unrest in the country.

In the week after the attack, the court was set to announce its decision on on whether to accept criminal charges against former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra. The case has meanwhile been accepted and the first hearing will take place on 19 May. If found guilty on charges of alleged corruption and maleficence she could face up to 10 years in prison. The court is also preparing a separate case against her brother-in-law, former prime minister Somchai Wongsawat, who is widely seen as the next family member in line to lead the Thaksin political machine. Therefore, the court wields considerable power over the future of the Thaksin clan.

The latest attack also follows a twin pipe bomb blast on 2 February at Siam Paragon, an upscale Bangkok shopping mall. Police claim that the two attacks are likely connected and the perpetrators an underground network affiliated with the pro-Thaksin Red Shirt movement. However, some critics believe that influential groups with vested interest in maintaining martial law could be behind the mysterious blasts.

Up to date, Thailand remains under martial law, a condition unlikely to be lifted until the end of this year. Furthermore, in case of more bomb or grenade attacks, the junta could also invoke Article 44 of the interim constitution, which grants the military sweeping powers against threats to national security without any judicial or other oversight.