Monday, September 18, 2006

Thailand Terror - Exclusive eyewitness report

Islamic terrorism has hit Thailand in attacks which are sure to rock the country’s tourist industry. The attacks came in a series of bomb blasts on Saturday night as people were drinking and eating in bars and restaurants in the tourist centre of Hat Yai. It is the furthest north that Islamic terrorism has hit in the country and will come as an unsettling move for the Shinawatra government.

The first reports filtered through at around 15:00 GMT with CNN breaking the news to international viewers. Other broadcasters including the BBC brought little coverage of the bombings which killed at least 4 and injured many more.

Speaking exclusively to tvnewswatch, tourist Robin Chakrabarti described what happened immediately after the blasts. “I was in the Swan Bar at the time of the first blast – which occurred around 100 metres away at a place called the Big Wonder Bar which is part of the Odeon Shopping Centre. And there was another blast in a Tuc Tuc which was parked outside. And the third bomb was almost half way between The Swan and the Odeon and I was almost level with it when it went off.” 

He then went on to describe the moments after the blast. “When I heard the first one, it was like a dull thud, and I thought, ‘That sounded like a bomb’, and I looked out the door and saw smoke coming out of the building down the road and heard a Thai guy shouting, ‘It’s a bomb’ in English, and then myself and two other guys jumped over the wall in front of the restaurant, ran down the street about a hundred metres to see if we could help. And we could see smoke and fire coming out of the Big Wonder Bar where later we heard that two people had been killed. But we couldn’t get close because then there was another explosion when this Tuc Tuc, a mini-bus thing, blew up. So I said, ‘Let’s get out of here there might be bombs all over the place.’ And as we made our way back there was the third explosion. And I was on the phone to my girl friend at the time and I said, ‘Did you hear that? That was another one’. That was a motorbike bomb which went off just across the street from me and blew shrapnel everywhere.”

The British tourist, from London, said the bombs weren’t powerful enough to blow buildings up but did blow out the front of the nearby shops. He spoke too of the how fortuitous he was not to have been injured. “I was lucky really that these cars were in the way else I’d have got my legs blown off probably. I got one guy into an ambulance with a gash to his leg. But the police and emergency services were on the scene very quickly.”

After making his way back to the Swan bar he found a number of tourists cowering at the back. “I tried to persuade them to leave and one Welsh girl said to me, ‘Do you think it’s safe outside?’, and I said, “No, but I don’t think it’s safe anywhere, three bombs have gone off already, and this is the third most popular part in the street, there might be one in here for all we know. There’s some parked cars outside and I don’t know who owns them. Who knows, let’s get out of here”. We went out quite quickly and the Welsh girl and a guy from Northern-Ireland, they didn’t know the town, so I said, “You can come with me and take some backstreets where there were no people and no traffic”. So we took the back streets to their hotel to avoid the streets where the bombs had gone off, and we got back alright.”

“One American guy I was with that night is now too scared to go to his hotel after receiving a shrapnel wound the night before. He has been bussed back to Bangkok with the help of the authorities. He was going to get a job here, but now he says he is too afraid.”

Many of the tourists have also fled the area following the blasts. “Many of the Singapore and Malaysian tourists have already left”, he said.

In all there were seven bombs. The two outside the Odeon shopping centre and one outside the Brown Sugar bar. The four others were up to two kilometres away at Lee Gardens, the Big C and the Diana, all shopping centres, and at a railway station in Hat Yai.

Of those killed, one was a Canadian; the first Westerner to be killed by terrorists in Thailand . He was an English teacher who had worked at Pholwittaya School, a 35 year old named as Jesse Lee Daniel. At least 70 people were injured in the attacks. The blasts were the latest in a string of violent incidents in the restive south, where more than 1,500 people have been killed since January 2004. Posted by Picasa

No comments: