A car bomb on the Thai resort island of Samui has wounded seven people, including an Italian girl, police said Saturday, in a further blow to the country’s tarnished reputation as a top tourist destination.
The bomb, packed inside a Mazda pick-up truck with false number plates, exploded late Friday in the car park of the Central Festival mall on the popular island while late-night shoppers were inside the building.
Police said the car had been stolen on March 31 from Yala, one of Thailand’s three southernmost provinces.
“It’s a car bomb but we cannot confirm what type of explosive materials they used,” Lieutenant-General Prawut Thavornsiri, spokesman for Thai national police told AFP.
“The car used was Mazda pick-up truck stolen from Yala,” he added, without specifying whether the blast was believed to be linked to the conflict hundreds of kilometers (miles) away.
Poonsak Sophonsasmorong of the island’s disaster prevention office said “six Thais and a 12-year-old Italian girl were treated for minor injuries”, adding that they had all been released from hospital.
Thai police have previously been accused of leaping to conclusions in the immediate aftermath of high-profile incidents.
The Thai force came under fire during the probe into the murder of two British backpackers on Koh Tao island last year for bungling the initial investigation and leaking erroneous information to the media.
Bomb squad experts scoured the debris early Saturday in the underground car park for clues about who might be behind the attack, which comes as Thailand’s junta tries to reassure tourists about the kingdom’s safety as a holiday destination following a coup last May.
Samui is a wildly popular tourist island in the Gulf of Thailand. Around 20 million visitors flock to Thailand each year and tourism is a mainstay of the economy.
Although the military lifted martial law last week, it maintained sweeping security powers citing the threat of political unrest after a spate of small, symbolic bombings in Bangkok apparently in protest against junta rule.