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Bomb on coup anniversary wounds 24 at Thai army hospital

Military hospital in Bangkok hit by 'low intensity' device

BANGKOK: A bomb struck a military hospital here yesterday, wounding 24 people - one seriously - three years to the day after the Thai army seized power in the politically unstable kingdom.

There was no claim of responsibility for the blast, which shattered glass and sent smoke into the corridors at the Phramongkutklao Hospital, which is popular with soldiers and their families and retired military officers.

Most were hit by flying glass, the military's national security unit said.

Hospital director Saroj Keokajee told AFP: "Eight people were admitted to hospital to observe their condition... among them is one woman who needed surgery because of shrapnel buried in her jaw.

"We found the pieces that were used to make the bomb," Mr Kamthorn Aucharoen, commander of the police's explosive ordnance team, told Reuters, adding it was not clear who was responsible. "Right now, authorities are checking out closed circuit cameras."

Thailand has remained starkly divided since the May 22, 2014 coup, but dissent has broadly been smothered by a military with sweeping security powers.

While it was not immediately clear who was behind the blast, Thailand has a long history of bomb attacks on symbolic dates - carried out by militant political factions or separatists linked to an insurgency in the Muslim-majority south.

Investigators said the bomb may be linked to two other similarly small devices that went off in recent weeks, one outside Bangkok's National Theatre a week ago and another left in a Bangkok bin in early April.

Both were too low-yield to cause significant injury.

But police said yesterday's device, while similar in size, was more serious because it was packed with nails.

"The people who did this are brutal," national police chief Chakthip Chaijinda told reporters. "If they (the nails) had directly impacted, they could cause death."

Regardless of the motive, the blast will raise the political temperature in Thailand, where violence had declined under the military's stranglehold.

Despite a veneer of stability, Thais remain divided and uncertain over the future - three years after the ousting of the elected government of Yingluck Shinawatra.

Protest and political gatherings are banned while dissidents have been rounded up on charges of sedition or breaching junta orders, or under draconian royal defamation legislation.

Militant elements among pro-democracy groups have either been arrested or gone to ground.

The one region where daily violence and large bomb blasts persist is the country's "Deep South", where Malay Muslim militants have fought a long insurgency.

But they rarely strike outside their region - an exception being in August 2016 when a series of coordinated blasts hit a string of tourist towns. 
- WIRE AGENCIES

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