Five years after bombings killed four people and injured more than 30, authorities have arrested only three of 11 suspects in connection with the attacks.
On August 11, 2016, two bombs exploded in Hua Hin. One person was killed and 23, many of them tourists, were injured. The next day, several more bombings took place, again targeting Hua Hin as well as Surat Thani, Phuket and Trang. At least two people were killed and many more were injured. In total, at least four people were killed and 36 injured. One day earlier, police diffused two bombs found at markets in Phuket.
A lawyer representing the suspects said one of the three men arrested has served his sentence, another was acquitted in May and a third is scheduled to return to court in September.
“The trials were not really slow until the spread of COVID-19 caused postponements beginning last year,” says Sitthipong Chantawiroj, a lawyer with the Muslim Attorney Center Foundation.
Lawyer Sitthipong said three suspects were arrested and faced trial in a military court in 2016 but saw those cases transferred to civilian court in July 2019.
Muhammad Muhi, a native of Pattani, confessed to planting two bombs in Phuket and has completed his sentence, the lawyer said.
A second suspect, Abdulkadir Salae, a native of Pattani who was charged with possessing a weapon of war, causing an explosion and arson, was acquitted by a criminal court in Trang in May, but prosecutors are still likely to appeal, Sitthipong said.
The third suspect, Abdulstopa Sulong, who is being held in a jail in Phuket, is scheduled to return to court in September when the prosecution presents its case following delays linked to the pandemic, Sitthipong said.
In September 2016, a member of Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN) – the largest armed separatist group in the region – claimed that his combat unit had carried out the attacks on August 11th and 12th. But BRN, Thailand’s most powerful insurgent group never claimed responsibility for the attacks.
Officials said the bombs – which were hidden in plant pots and detonated by mobile phones – were similar to ones found in the Deep South, that is Pattani, Narathiwat, and Yala provinces, and four districts of Songkhla.
In the aftermath of this event Hua Hin police were equipped with bomb-detection sniffer dogs, which continue to be trained and given training to respond to any further bomb-related threats.