The BIG news in Bangkok this weekend is a “terrorist bomb threat plot” to blow up some tourist areas in Bangkok. This bomb threat came out Friday afternoon, from the U.S. Embassy, warning Westerners to avoid touristy places and exercise caution when out in public.
This bomb threat comes on the heels of a threat back in December 2011 that targeted New Year’s Eve revelers at 10 spots in Bangkok and pissed off the Thai Government Ministry of Tourism and Sports stating it would damage tourism and this kind of bad news should not be posted.
There has been so much bomb threat misinformation, conflicting reports, Thai Politician double-speak, and absolute confusion, that I have no idea what to believe.
First off, the initial bomb threat in December was reported on 14 December and the pissing and moaning from the Ministry of Tourism and Sports came shortly thereafter. Security was stepped up at the 10 venues, and no bombs were set off on New Year’s Eve. End of bomb threat.
The Emergency bomb threat Message from the U.S Embassy cane out on 13 January 2012, at about 1530, warning folks in Bangkok to be careful. About three hours later, Michal Yon, on Facebook, posted a link to an article at Bloomberg Businessweek that says the Thai Police apprehended a terrorist. I thought that this was strange in that it happened so quickly.
Later, I find out, that this supposed terrorist, Atris Hussein, from Lebanon but with Swedish Passport, was actually arrested on 12 January at Suvarnabhumi International Airport in Bangkok, as he was trying to leave the country.
As more information came out, the Thai Government announced they had either 1 bomb threat suspect captured or 2 bomb threat suspects captured or 1 bomb threat suspect captured and one still on the run.
We also find out that the bomb threat folks who plotted the New Year’s Eve bombings came into Thailand on 22 December (8 days after that warning was issued by the Thai Government), went to Southern Thailand, and departed. Reportedly, they returned on 8 January 2012 and had set their bomb threat plot target dates for 13-15 January.
What happens after the capture and the subsequent bomb threat warning from the U.S. Embassy is where everything gets weird.
We are, of course, assured by the Thai Government that everything is under control and not to panic as that would damage tourism.
From MCOT.net, Army chief urges public not to panic over terror threat alert:
Army chief Gen Prayuth Chanocha on Saturday urged the public not to panic over recent terror threat alerts issued by foreign embassies in Bangkok, while assuring the army and related agencies are well prepared with security measures and personnel for public safety.
He said undue panic can affect all business sectors in the country particularly during this high season of the tourism industry.
Wouldn’t want to damage the already battered tourism industry.
Now, this Atris Hussein guy is supposedly a Hezbollah terrorist, but for whatever reason, I have yet to see a photo online or on Thai TV. This is highly unusual in Thailand as the Thai Police love to pose the captured at a press conference, point fingers at him/her, and display whatever contraband is found. This is especially true with something so HIGH profile involving other countries. But, the only image I have been able to find is that of his passport.
Things got even more exciting on Saturday, the 14th, when the Thai Government announced that Hezbollah had cancelled their plan to plant bombs in Bangkok because Thai Security was on to them. I kid you not. From The Nation, Hezbollah calls off attacks:
A Middle Eastern terrorist group had cancelled its plan to attack targets in Thailand after one of its members was arrested in Bangkok and the authorities learned about the plot, the national police chief quoted the suspect as saying yesterday.
Utter Bullshit! When one is planning an attack, one always has additional targets of opportunity to go after if Plan A fails. If security is beefed up at one location, you go to the next. For a terrorist, it doesn’t matter where, just that there are a lot of people. and fear is instilled.
Pol General Priewpan Damapong added, however, that the police would still be on guard, with patrolmen being deployed in areas that were possible targets, including popular tourist areas like Khao San Road and Soi Sukhumvit 22, as well as certain foreign embassies.
I understand Khao San Road, backpacker’s paradise in Bangkok, but fail to understand Soi 22. Even though it is somewhat of an expat hangout, there are much bigger bomb threat targets with many more foreigners in Bangkok, especially on the weekend. Oh, and this Police General – he is former Prime Minister and fugitive from the law, Thaksin Shinawatra’s, brother-in-law. My buddy George at Canary Travel on Khaosan said he saw no increase in security last night.
All of this bomb threat news was primarily from the Bangkok Post and The Nation as everywhere I looked online only carried a story from the Associated Press. Again, strange. A buddy of mine also checked the U.S. State Department’s web site, and no warning to travelers was posted there. And, as of 0400 on 15 January 2012, Thailand time, still no bomb threat travel alert for Thailand at state.gov.
The suspect is a white Middle-Eastern man who is about 180cm tall with short hair and stubble. Those who believe they may have spotted the suspect are being urged to report to the nearest police station or call 191, said police spokesman Piya Uthayo.
I have never in my life seen a white Middle-Easterner. All that I have seen have a dark complexion. They even have a different name in the Thai language. Us foreigners (U.S., Brits, Aussies, Kiwis, etc) are called “Farang” while those from India and/or anywhere in the Middle East are called “Kak”. Something may have gotten lost in the translation.
Next up, was the Foreign Minister of Thailand, Surapong Towichukchaikul, who threw a hissy fit that the United States issued the bomb threat terror warning without consulting him first. Considering that Khun Surapong knows absolutely nothing about foreign affairs, and his biggest claim to fame is re-issuing a Thai passport to fugitive Thaksin, anyone with half a brain would realize that getting his permission was not required. Khun Surapong got even more pissed off when Australia and Canada followed America and issued Thailand travel warnings.
Foreign Minister Surapong Towichukchaikul yesterday expressed his “disappointment and unhappiness” over the warnings by the United States, Canada and Australia. He said he would summon the ambassadors from those countries to explain the warnings to him, or Thailand would issue retaliatory measures against such a move.
This is all about “FACE”. Is he now going to publicly scold them? What retaliatory measures?
Mr Surapong noted Thailand is a friendly country and expresses itself in the world’s arena in an appropriate manner. He asked potential terrorists not to pose any threat to the country, for the world needs peace and Thailand is a Buddhist country that maintains peace as well.
Appropriate manner? I guess he didn’t see the video of the “high and mighty” C7 Customs Official slapping the security guard at Suvarnabhumi International Airport because the security guard wanted to scan him with a metal detector. And, does he really think that foreign terrorists are going to heed his request to not bomb Thailand. Surapong needs to go in the next cabinet shuffle.
Khun Surapong may have a bigger audience at his “scold the ambassadors” bomb threat meeting, as there are more countries that have issued Thailand bomb threat travel warnings.
In addition to the US, 11 other countries, including Britain, Sweden, Germany and Japan, advised their citizens to take caution while in Bangkok, according to an official at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
So much for tourism rebounding in the first quarter of 2012.
From Ya Libnan, Thailand Holds a Hezbollah Swedish-Lebanese terror suspect, Khun Surapong continues to put his foot in his mouth.
“Thailand never creates enemies,” Surapong said. “I hope whoever plans to do anything here thinks about our good relationship.”
Burma may argue that point.
The U.S. announcement two days ago “made many countries panic and follow the U.S.,” Foreign Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul told reporters in Bangkok yesterday. “That’s why it really disappointed me.”
See, the Thai Government would rather not mention anything that may damage the image of Thailand like a bomb threat. Fine. But, they have no right to tell foreign Embassies what to tell their citizens. If the U.S. wants to issue a bomb threat warning, tough shit Surapong.
So, to recap. The Thai Police supposedly have detained a supposed Swedish-Lebanese man, supposedly a Hezbollah terrorist, and a second supposed Hezbollah terrorist is still on the loose. The American Embassy in Bangkok has issued a warning to all Westerners about a possible bomb threat, but the U.S State Department hasn’t, and 11 other countries have followed suit pissing off the Thai Foreign Minister and the Ministry of Tourism and Sports since it damages tourism and the image of Thailand.
The only thing missing is the Ministry of Tourism and Sports telling us that the bomb threat had no impact on tourism.
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