Thailand resort a 'ghost-town' following bombings

  • 13/08/2016
Hua Hin Thailand Bombing (Reuters)
Hua Hin Thailand Bombing (Reuters)

are shuttered, streets are empty and security forces are advising people to stay indoors.

The seaside playground was rocked by four bombs within 12 hours that killed two people and wounded 24, as thousands flocked to its hotels and beaches for a long weekend to celebrate the Queen's birthday, which is also Mother's Day in Thailand.

"It's a ghost-town now," said Irish tourist Tim Kelleher. "Usually this place is so popular."

The bombings, part of a series of attacks on world-renowned seaside resorts in southern Thailand, may jeopardise the Southeast Asian nation's target of luring a record 32 million visitors in 2016.

Tourism is one of the only growth sectors in Thailand, and accounts for 10 per cent of an economy that has struggled under a military government that seized power two years ago.

"It's bad for the economy, which is limping along on one leg, and now we have these incidents," Ittirit Kinglek, the president of the Tourism Council of Thailand, told Reuters.

"It will definitely have an impact on tourism, but it's too early to estimate how it will affect tourist numbers and revenues."

Other blasts hit the island of Phuket, a resort town in Phang Nga province, and Surat Thani, the jumping-off point for travellers heading to the white sandy beaches of Gulf of Thailand islands such as Koh Samui.

No group has claimed responsibility, though suspicion could fall on insurgents from Muslim-majority provinces in southern Thailand. Police and security analysts said the small devices appeared to have been aimed more at sending a message than causing widespread death and destruction.

Embassies in Thailand warned their citizens to stay vigilant and some warned there could be more attacks.

Australia, the source of just over 800,000 visitors to Thailand in 2015, issued a travel advisory urging Australians to "exercise a high degree of caution", and warned "further explosions in any part of Thailand are possible".

China, the biggest source of tourists to Thailand with nearly eight million visitors in 2015, told citizens to avoid crowded areas and pay close attention to security developments.

The German units of tour operators TUI and Thomas Cook said customers booked on trips to Thailand departing before August 15 could cancel or rebook to other destinations free of charge.

TUI, which has about 2000 customers in Thailand at present, said it would help any who wished to leave early.

Thai Tourism Minister Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul said the sector would rebound from any impact fast, as it had in the past.

"If anything happens, Thailand's tourism will be able to adjust and come back quickly," she told Reuters.

Australian tourist Vanessa Jamieson, at a shrine with 6-year-old twins on Friday, said the bombings in southern Thailand had made her rethink her holiday plans.

"We stayed away from most public places today," she said "Frankly, if the bombings continue then we might as well jump on a plane and go somewhere else."