By Denis D. Gray
Monday, January 1, 2007
BANGKOK, Jan. 1-- Nine bombs exploded across Bangkok as the Thai capital celebrated the new year, killing three people and driving thousands of revelers home as the city canceled its countdown festivities.
The bombings late Sunday and early Monday capped a year of unrest in Thailand, including a military coup three months ago and an increasingly violent Muslim insurgency in the south.
Six near-simultaneous explosions Sunday night killed three people and injured 26.
Hours later, near a shopping complex where thousands of people had planned to count down to the New Year, three blasts minutes after midnight wounded eight people, including a foreigner whose legs were blown off, the iTV television station reported.
There was no immediate assertion of responsibility.
The national police chief, Gen. Ajirawit Suphanaphesat, said he did not believe insurgents were behind the attacks in Bangkok, a major international banking and technology hub for Asia.
Bangkok Mayor Apirak Kosayothin ordered the cancellation of the two major public New Year's Eve countdown celebrations.
"Due to several bomb explosions in Bangkok and for the sake of peace and security, I would ask all of you to return to your homes now," Apirak told about 5,000 revelers at the downtown Central World Plaza shopping mall, hours before the second set of explosions went off in the area.
Police and soldiers fanned out across Bangkok. Several embassies issued warnings urging people to avoid Bangkok's city center.
Bomb attacks are rare in the Thai capital. Several small bombs exploded during the recent political turmoil, but they were apparently set to create unrest rather than cause casualties.
In September, Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra was ousted in a bloodless coup by Gen. Sondhi Boonyaratkalin. The military installed Surayud Chulanont as interim prime minister until elections in October 2007. But Thaksin still enjoys widespread support, and a number of arson attacks in provincial areas have been blamed on his followers.
Violence occurs almost daily in Thailand's three southern provinces, where an Islamic insurgency that flared in 2004 has killed more than 1,900 people.