No one has yet taken responsibility for the “worst ever attack” on Thailand, but there is no shortage of potential theories brewing as to who is behind Monday’s Bangkok bombing or why it happened.
Investigators are now looking at the following possibilities:
Immediate suspicion has fallen on Muslim insurgents in the south of Thailand.
But Thai politics expert from Australian National University, Nicholas Farrelly, doubts this group is responsible for the attack.
Dr Farrelly told SBS that although southern Thailand’s Muslim insurgency have killed over 6,000 people since 2004, related conflict has not yet spread beyond the country’s three southern most provinces.
“It would seem unlikely that those who have been calling the shots on the insurgent side in that conflict would see this as an opportune moment to take their battle to Bangkok,” he said.
International terrorism expert, Rohan Gunaratna, also thinks it is highly unlikely that Muslim insurgents from south Thailand are to blame.
“It is not a group from the south of Thailand because they have not mounted attacks with such large scale bombs,” Dr Gunaratna said.
“It’s very likely this is an act of international terrorism.”
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There is speculation that the key suspect, a man seen in CCTV footage taken from the scene of the explosion, was a member of the Uighur minority.
According to this theory, the bombing was an act of revenge which intended to punish the Thai people for deporting a large group of Uighurs back to China.
“It’s always possible that an aggrieved party would have gone to the brink and sought to wreak such carnage on this very heavily visited attraction, right in the middle of the city,” Dr Farrelly said.
“Could such a person be motivated by the recent efforts of the Thai government to repatriate the Uighurs back to China? It couldn’t be ruled out.”
Local authorities are also investigating whether the supsect is a man from an anti-government group based in Thailand’s northeast, the heartland of the anti-coup Red Shirt movement.
The group has previously expressed anger over the Thai military detaining politicians and activists.
However, the Red Shirt movement has always claimed it believes in using peaceful means of protest.
Since Thailand’s 2014 military coup, local tensions between the military government and the people have risen.
Some experts now believe that the bomb may have been the work of a group or person that sympathises with Islamic State militants or a group that is disgruntled with Thailand’s military regime.
But, Dr Farrelly said it is “unlikely that one of these local domestic political opponents would have gone about such a spectacular mass casualty attack”.
What we know
Thailand’s junta chief has confirmed that authorities are hunting a male suspect seen on CCTV footage near the bomb scene before the explosion at the Erawan shrine around 7pm on Monday.
Yet, Thailand’s Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha has confirmed that the identity of the individual remains unknown.
“I have ordered the cameras be checked because there is one suspect, but it is not clear who he is,” the PM told reporters at Bangkok’s Government House.
“… We have to investigate more.”
Dr Farrelly said that police investigations will soon determine the answer.
“We need to be treating each of these theories and suggestions and speculations with due consideration, while not getting carried away until we’ve seen the real evidence the Thai government is going to need to produce,” he said.
“The challenge for the Thai authorities is that it is not just one suspect when an incident like this occurs. There is a very long list of potential elements that have to be eliminated from the story.”