On Monday night, at 7 PM local time, a pipe bomb exploded outside Bangkok's Erawan Shrine, killing at least 22 people and wounding more than 120 others. The blast charred much of the surrounding area, mangling the shrine's wrought iron gates and obliterating several vehicles in the blast zone. No one has claimed responsibility for the attack, but police are now hunting for a man in a yellow shirt who was caught on CCTV leaving a backpack on a bench, then walking away. "The yellow shirt guy is not just the suspect. He is the bomber," a police spokesman told the Associated Press.
After the explosion, two other bombs were located with sniffer dogs and safely defused, and while there were rumors of other explosives downtown, none were confirmed and there have been no further incidents.
Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwan said the authorities had no idea about the attack, and Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha described the bombing as "the worst incident that has ever happened in Thailand."
Located in a popular tourist area, the Erawan Shrine is dedicated to the Hindu god Brahma. It's extremely popular with Buddhists and Chinese tourists, and is considered a symbol of Thailand's deep religious beliefs and culture.
At least three Chinese people, two Singaporeans, one Philippine national, and two Hong Kong residents are believed to have been killed. The number of Chinese-speaking casualties is so large that hospitals have put out calls for Chinese speakers to come in to assist with translations.
Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan confirmed to the press suspects had been identified, saying, "It is much clearer who the bombers are, but I can't reveal right now." Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha has been quoted as saying the suspect is believed to be from an "anti-government group based in Thailand's north-east"—the region at the center of the movement that opposes the military junta.
The shrine is close to the area that was occupied by anti-government protesters for several weeks in 2010. That occupation was violently broken up by the army, and several people were killed in the civil unrest that followed. Four years later, the same area was again the site of the anti-government demonstrations that resulted in the removal of the Yingluck Shinawatra–led government and a military coup. The country's current military government has banned protests and suspended democracy for the past year.
Concerns have surfaced over the effect the bombings will have on the tourism industry, with the government calling the incident a bid to destroy the economy. Last year, hospitality was one of the country's only sectors that showed growth. Much of that tourism was from China, but following the deaths of four Chinese and two Hong Kong nationals, Hong Kong travel advisories are recommending citizens cancel any nonessential trips to Bangkok.
In the wake of the bombing, the Thai baht has fallen to a six-year low.