Norwich graduate describes aftermath of Thai bombings

Investigators work at the scene of an explosion in the resort town of Hua Hin. (AP Photo/Jerry Harme

Investigators work at the scene of an explosion in the resort town of Hua Hin. (AP Photo/Jerry Harmer) - Credit: AP

A University of East Anglia (UEA) graduate travelling with friends in Thailand has described the aftermath of a bombing on a beach popular with tourists as a wave of attacks targeted the south of the country.

Amariese, Ellie and Emily at the Big Buddha that looks over Phuket. Picture Ellie Pringle

Amariese, Ellie and Emily at the Big Buddha that looks over Phuket. Picture Ellie Pringle - Credit: Archant

The bombing on Patong beach in the tourist resort of Phuket was part of a wave of co-ordinated explosions which rattled cities and resort towns across southern Thailand and left at least four people dead and dozens of others injured.

Ellie Pringle, 21, was in a nightclub on the resort with two fellow UEA graduates, Amariese Billing, 21, and Emily Wolfe, when they first became aware of the bombings across Thailand.

She said: 'We were in a nightclub on Bangla Road, Patong, about a minutes walk from the beach when the lights suddenly came up around 2am, and we were all told to leave.

'We assumed the Bangkok police had just shut the strip down, as they often do if clubs are running too late but when we left we noticed that there were police everywhere, people weren't looking for other places to continue drinking, but were hurrying to tuk-tuks to leave.

'I spoke to a policeman and asked what had happened, he told me that bombs had gone off in Bangkok and given Patong is the next largest tourist destination, the area was put on lockdown.

'We went home, and this morning found out bombs had gone off on the beach five minutes from our hotel.'

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The explosions all occurred south of Bangkok and several of the blasts - including the one on Patong beach, and three in the seaside city of Hua Hin - appeared designed to strike the tourism industry.

The most devastating explosions occurred on Thursday night in Hua Hin on a busy street filled with bars and restaurants. One Thai woman was killed and about 20 people were wounded, half of them foreigners, according to Police Lieutenant Chaiyot Tisawong.

General Sithichai Srisopacharoenrath, the superintendent of police in Hua Hin, said the bombs were hidden inside potted plants and were set off by remote control, half an hour apart. He said a Samsung mobile phone had been recovered which they believe was used to detonate at least one of the bombs.

On Friday, debris and ball bearings could be seen strewn across the road as police investigated the scene. The blast damaged a pair of phone booths and shattered the window of a nearby Starbucks coffee shop.

Many shops in the city centre closed afterwards and normally bustling streets were empty.

Another bomb exploded in Hua Hin on Friday morning near a clock tower, killing one person and injuring four more.

Separate blasts were reported elsewhere in the south on Thursday night and Friday morning.

One exploded on Phuket city's popular Patong beach, injuring one person. Two more detonated in front of two police stations half an hour apart in Surat Thani in southern Thailand, killing one and wounding three. And two bombs exploded outside a market in Phang Na, damaging two vehicles but causing no casualties.

Earlier on Thursday, another bomb blew up in the southern province of Trang, killing one person and injuring six, according to Thai press reports.

Ms Pringle and her friends are due to leave Phuket in the next couple of days and said the attacks have left the streets deserted.

'We went out briefly for some food later today, and the usually madly busy shops and markets were either closed or deserted,' she said. 'We also had to drive via the beach, but could see no disruption to normal activities, despite the beach being almost empty.

'There is a more obvious police presence, with army personnel at the entrance to the beach.'

It was not clear who was behind the attacks, but police said the violence was not linked to international terrorism or a low-level insurgency in the country's Islamic south.

The timing and scope of the attacks suggested the bombs were set off by opponents of the South East Asian nation's ruling junta, which last weekend organised a successful referendum on a constitution that critics say will bolster the military's power for years to come.

•Are you in Thailand? Email jessica.long@archant.co.uk

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