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Breaking News - Bomb Blast At Bangkok Shrine. Aired 11:00a-12:00p ET
Aired August 17, 2015 - 11:00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BECKY ANDERSON, CNN HOST: Thank you, Robyn.
You're watching breaking news coverage from Thailand, many casualties are reported after a bomb blast rocked Central Bangkok. And in the
immediate aftermath, police told CNN there was a second bomb that needed to be defused. This is all happening now in a popular tourist area near the
Erawan Shrine, major hotels and a shopping mall.
Reuters News Agency reports as much as 27 people were killed, many of them are foreigners it is reported. Well, let's get some more insight now
from Thomas Fuller, who is the Southeast Asia correspondent for "The New York Times."
Before I go to Thomas, I'll get to Saima Mohsin, who is in fact our Bangkok correspondent in London today. Saima, thank you for joining us.
At this stage, details very, very sketchy. We know where this happened. We don't know who is behind it. Let's just flesh out what we do
know at this point.
SAIMA MOHSIN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Becky, this is an incredibly busy area. It's just near a BTS sky train station. It's
popular amongst tourists and locals alike. The shrine itself, Erawan Shrine, is a very historic shrine. It's a tourist destination. It's a
Hindu Shrine. But being a Buddhist country, a lot of Buddhists also worship Hindu gods, and so this is a major hub in the center of Bangkok for
tourists and local people alike. So it's an incredibly busy area.
The shrine was open at the time when this bomb was detonated.
Now, what we know so far is that this bomb was attached to some kind of poll, a utility poll, so probably an electricity poll or a telephone
pylon nearby. And this shrine is literally on the corner of an intersection, Becky. So, there's a lot of people. There's a lot of street
carts there. There are street food vendors. There are people selling flowers for those wanting to go in, devotees going into the shrine as well.
And because it's a major intersection, that is likely why it may well have been a target, of course. We don't know yet who will have targeted
this shrine. It is not usual for a shrine to be targeted, but of course we have seen violence in Thailand over 18 months ago now, before the coup, the
coup took place in May last year, 2014. And that was a result of the escalating violence, Becky. In Bangkok, in the center of Thailand, in
places like this. This is the place where I was a year ago covering the protests in Thailand by the -- what are known by the yellow shirts against
the red shirts when the military decided that they were going to come in because of the escalating violence, because of the grenade attack that left
two children dead, which CNN, myself and the teams there on the ground there in Bangkok covered at the time.
So, we saw escalating violence up until May last year. And then following the coup, we've had very little information about any kind of
violence. There has been the odd announcement of a potential attack. There was a pipe bomb, very close to this, Becky, just one train stop away
probably less than a kilometer, 500 meters, maybe. At Siam station, that's another very popular station and very popular area for tourists right next
to a very busy shopping district.
Now there was a pipe bomb planted there. It did go off, but no one was killed. There were only a few injuries. It was a relatively small
bomb. And that at the time, that was at the beginning of this year, was considered a warning, a warning for what we don't really know. Why this
political against the military leadership in Thailand right now? Of course, military dictator turned prime minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha,
or was this perhaps an early indication of separatists in the southern part of Thailand, moving into the capital, we simply don't know -- Becky.
ANDERSON: Saima, stand by. Mark Phillips, our senior photojournalist is on the scene. And Mark, as we speak, we're looking at pictures that
have been coming in to CNN Center now over the past couple of hours, scenes of carnage, our viewers will have seen there. The footage coming in now
from Reuters that we will show momentarily is -- shows a scene of relatively -- which is relatively calm.
Describe what you are witnessing as we speak.
MARK PHILLIPS, CNN PHOTOJOURNALIST: At the moment it is calm. It's calmed down quite a lot since the initial blast, which is about two, three
hours ago now. The police are on the scene. They seem to be moving into the shrine now and you can see investigators sweeping the area with lights
and kicking through the debris. The gate around the shrine has all been bent out of shape, because of the blast. The motorbikes that were caught
in the blast are still there, two of them are completely burned out and several of them laying on their side at the moment, Becky.
ANDERSON: We know what -- where this happened. It is unclear, it seems, at this stage exactly how this blast happened. What sort of device
PHILLIPS: We're not too sure at the moment. Nobody has actually confirmed how it was delivered. What kind explosive it was, whether it was
on the back of a bike, whether it was tied to a poll, whether it went off in the shrine or in the intersection at the moment.
At the moment, nobody can confirm that. All we know that there has been a bomb and several people have been killed and dozens have been
But apart from that, the information coming out has been fairly slow. We're not too sure on the number of casualties. We're not too sure on the
number of fatalities at the moment.
[11:05:29] ANDERSON: And what about the possibility of another device, Mark?
PHILLIPS: Soon afterwards, that was the main concern. And we were all pushed back quite a fair way. When we got down there about 20 meters
away and then were pushed back to about 100, 150 meters back from the site saying there could be a secondary device. After that, an hour, that seemed
to have -- that threat seems to have gone away. And the police moved back in, the journalists moved back in, and they started letting corridors for
the general public to come wander around this -- not particularly in the scene, but do navigate around it so they can get on with their own business
and get back to their hotels or their offices or wherever they needed to get to -- Becky.
ANDERSON: Can you describe the activity that the emergency services as we watch some of the footage that is coming in to CNN here. We've
described it as looking like a fairly calm scene at present. What are the emergency services up to? Have they cleared the scene?
PHILLIPS: They're about -- they've cleared -- they hadn't actually cleared the main scene. They have cleared around the scene, but they're
still investigating and making sure that it's actually safe to come in. There are a lot of investigators down here, there are a lot of police.
There's military down here, ambulance, fire, everybody seems to be here at the moment. The blast also across the road is the main police
hospital. And just beyond that is the Bangkok -- Bangkok police station down here. So, you know, a lot of police got here very, very quickly.
But, you know, the Bangkok police I wouldn't say are used to things like this, but over the years because of demonstrations, because of the
coups, because there's been bombs in the past, it's not quite routine, but they are used to situations like this.
ANDERSON: And for those of our viewers who may be unfamiliar with the center of Bangkok, Mark, just remind us of the significance of where this
PHILLIPS: Well, this is basically the epicenter of the shopping district of Thailand. Across the road from the shrine is Central World
Mall, which is the largest mall in Bangkok. And the shrine is actually part of the Grand Hyatt hotel, which that's part of the same complex.
Around it, you've got the Intercontinental Hotel, you've got the Holiday Inn all within walking distance.
So, this is a very, very busy area. So you have a lot of tourists coming down here. And you've got to also remember, it is the end of the
school -- summer school holidays. So, people are starting to head back to Europe or Australia or America. And this is sort of the last port of call
before they fly out. Bangkok is where, you know, all the national flights come in and go out of.
So, you're looking at this shrine and where people go shopping and a lot of tourists would go down there and have a look at the shrine. There's
always dancers down there. There are always people down there. You can light incense. You can, you know, you can pray. And at the very busy,
very popular, very colorful shrine, and very popular with tourists -- Becky.
ANDERSON: The shrine to the Hindu god Brahma, but is also visited, as Mark point out, by many tourists and thousands of Buddhists each day.
Built in 1956.
Mark, thank you.
Let's get you to Kristie Lu Stout now who is standing by for more on what we know about that area and who might be behind that attack.
Kristie is standing by for you in Hong Kong.
And this is the big unanswered question at this point, isn't it? Who is behind this?
KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. We still don't know that this hour, but what we do know is just where this
took place and the significance of the location of where the bomb blast happened in Bangkok.
The Erawan shrine is a popular Hindu shrine. It's been there in the Thai capital for over 50 years. It has been a very popular destination for
tourists, but what is significant about this shrine, Becky, is its location. If we bring it up on the map, it is located in the heart of
Bangkok. It is located in a very busy corner of the city's commercial district.
The Erawan shrine is located near the Central World Shopping Mall, a very popular high end shopping mall as well as a number of five star hotels
in the area, including the Grand Hyatt, (inaudible) plaza, the giant Paragon Mall (ph) are also nearby.
These are our popular shopping malls for tourists with a number of luxury stores inside them.
Also in this area, you have two sky train stations. Now the sky train is Bangkok's elevated monorail system, so a lot of commuters using that
So the site of the bombing, it's a very busy area, popular among tourists, business people and commuters.
And the bombing, it also took place during a very busy time. Throughout our coverage of the bomb blast, we keep playing this video, the
CCTV video, of when the blast took place. And look at the time stamp there: 6:55 p.m., that is at the height of rush hour in Bangkok.
So, little wonder that in the aftermath in these blasts there have been casualties. According to local media in Thailand at least 27 people
are dead, scores more are injured. So, Becky, this appears that this was an attack, it was purposefully timed and designed for maximum casualties
targeting tourists as well as the people of Thailand. Back to you.
[08:10:50] ANDERSON: And if the goal, as you say, of this attack was to instill terror, then clearly, sadly it has been successful.
We have heard from the defense minister who has said it appears the goal was to really target the Thai economy and its tourism sector --
LU STOUT: Yeah, absolutely. On the face, it appears that this was an attack designed to target the economy and to target the tourism industry in
Thailand. Thailand is a very popular tourist destination around the world, Thailand is also very heavily dependent on tourism for its economy.
So, where this attack took place right in the heart of Bangkok, right where tourists would be located at Erawan shrine right across from the
central world department store where a number of tourists from all over the world, in particular east Asia and in China would go there to shop at these
This was an attack that was timed and also strategically designed to hit that nerve right in the center of Bangkok at rush hour right where
tourists would be located.
ANDERSON: Kristie, thank you.
Let's get some more insight now from Thomas Fuller who is the southeast Asia correspondent for the New York Times. He's also been at the
scene now for some time.
Thomas, just describe what you have witnessed and continue to see there in the heart of Bangkok.
THOMAS FULLER, NEW YORK TIMES: Well, Becky, the investigation that is continuing at the intersection where the blast took place, as you've been
saying it's just outside and just inside this shrine of the Erawan shrine, it has a lot of symbolism for both Thais and foreigners.
The police here are saying that the explosion came from inside the shrine, that there were three bags inside the shrine -- or I should say two
bags were discovered with explosives in them. And they believe a third bag was the one that detonated. That's early information that hasn't been
confirmed -- or what has been confirmed by the government is that 16 people were killed in the explosion.
ANDERSON: Reuters reporting sadly a high number at this point. Clearly, a scene that is difficult to get ultimate detail on.
But let me just go back to what you've just been learning there as you say, not confirmed by authorities, but you're hearing that this device or
these devices may have been inside this shrine, two bags, you say, discovered with explosives, the third may have been that which exploded.
That would tally with the fact that just after this blast, authorities were telling those in the vicinity to stay clear, as a thought or expected
there they might be another device -- correct?
FULLER: That's right.
The police brought what I suspect were bomb sniffing bombs and those were brought around the area. And about an hour after the blast the police
pushed everyone back, reporters and onlookers back about I would say 100 yards from the shrine. But there are a lot of security forces, military
police and emergency workers who were still right in the heart where the blast took place at this (inaudible) intersection, which was also the site
of a protest in 2010 where the military dispersed protesters.
So, that this site has a lot of political significance, but it also has very strong personal and spiritual power for people who come to this
shrine, who make wishes.
In 2006, a man was beaten to death after he tried to -- and did -- damage to the shrine. So, it's not the first time that this shrine has
been -- has had, you know, violence occur around it.
It's too early to say whether this is something personal or political.
[11:15:21] ANDERSON: Yeah, because that's the big unanswered question at this point who is behind this.
There's been much speculation and no doubt not something that you want to add to at this point. I mean, we'll wait and hear either from
authorities or those responsible.
Let's talk about the casualties, because there is a clear human element behind this story. You confirm 16 dead, other news organizations
are reporting as many as 27 dead, and possibly scores injured. Can you describe the sort of injuries that the emergency services have been dealing
FULLER: Well, what I know for sure, when I arrived on the scene and went right up to the edge of the shrine, there were body parts strewn all
over the place. The rescue workers took away pieces of bodies, not entire bodies. And those -- those those -- there were blood stains that went up
to the second floor of the shopping center, which is adjacent to the shrine.
Those were all clear indications that this was a blast that carried significant power.
ANDERSON: Well, let's just pause you for a moment, Thomas, while I get our viewers some background on the shrine which, of course, is at the
scene of today -- Monday's bombing.
The Erawan is a hugely popular tourist attraction said to be one of the most revered spots in Thailand. Built in 1956 as a shrine to the Hindu
god Brahma. It's also visited by thousands of Buddhists every day.
The shrine was the site of a strange attack in 2006 when a mentally disturbed man damaged the shrine's gold-faced statue with a hammer. He was
then beaten to death by onlookers and the stratue was replaced within two months.
As we consider just where this shrine is located, let's take a look in Bangkok. A short time ago, we got this analysis from Sajan Gohel,
international security director at the Asia-Pacific Foundation. My colleague Robyn Curnow asked him who could be responsible for this attack.
Have a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SAJAN GOHEL, ASIA-PACIFIC FOUNDATION: All options are possible. I would say, though, that it's less likely to be politically motivated based
on the type of attack that we witnessed. It took place in a central artery area of Bangkok. Security was minimal, virtually non-existent. There's a
large concentration of people, especially in the evening. And the location of the target where the Erawan temple was it's a symbolic target.
Now, if you combine all of these things together, I would say it strongly suggests that the motivation was ideological, potentially
connected to a terrorist group that is either the domestic such as the Muslim separatist groups fighting in southern Thailand, or maybe a
transnational group with a much more international focus, but nevertheless the intention was to maim and kill a large concentration of people -- kill
Thais and western tourists alike.
ROBYN CURNOW, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And what about these reports -- I know CNN was still reporting and still is reporting that there
are real concerns that there would be a second explosion. Police very concerned that this one blast was not potentially the only one. Is this a
modus operandi that we've seen before?
GOHEL: I'm afraid so. This would also suggest that the second potential bomb was targeted to hit those individuals that become the first
responders, potentially those moving in another direction. We've seen this tactic used a lot in terrorism around the world, especially in places like
Iraq where the second followup attack is designed to hit the ambulance services, the police, the first responders that turn up.
Now fortunately, it doesn't seem to have gone off and been detonated. But nevertheless it illustrates the intention and desire to kill and
further maim more people.
CURNOW: Indeed, I mean, what we're hearing, our wires are saying that this area has been sealed off. We know from our reporter on the ground,
Mark Phillips, as well as a number of other journalists that the perimeter, they've been pushed back. They can't see the site now whereas an hour or
so ago, there was a lot more people in the direct vicinity of this blast. We know that the area remains active and police have said that this
secondary bomb or some sort of explosive needs to be defused. We're unclear if that has happened or not.
Either way, you point there to certain terror tactics that are familiar around the world, Thailand in particular. Give us a sense of how
vulnerable Bangkok is, Thailand is, to terror.
[11:20:32] GOHEL: Well, Thailand has often been a very key ally in cooperating with its neighbors in dismantling the infrastructure of the Jam
Islamiyah terrorist group. That is the group that was behind the 2002 Bali bombings that killed over 200 people, including 88 Australians.
Bangkok itself was where Hambali, that mastermind of that attack, was arrested over a decade ago. And Thailand has been cooperating with the
United States in terms of sharing information on local charity groups and also the transnational outfit.
There is a concern with the fact that some Thais from southern Thailand have traveled to Iraq and Syria to join groups like ISIS. The
worry has been for awhile that could there be potential blowback.
But at the same time, you can't dismiss the fact so what's been perculating in the south of the country where there has been a spike in
violence with an increase in attacks by the separatist groups against the military. The worry would be is has this now spilled into the major cities
the urban centers like Bangkok itself.
And of course the worry would also be that could there be followup plots and attacks. The temple, the very popular in Thailand for tourists,
but also many Thais are very religious. They attend them regularly. So -- and also whether the mass concentration of people.
So the authorities need to now crack down on this very quickly to prevent a potential followup attack.
CURNOW: We've seen from the photographs from the images coming from the scene. I don't know whether you've had time to study them. A number
of burned out shells of motorbikes. Reuters is reporting, saying that this bomb was delivered essentially on a motorbike. We can't confirm that at
Your assessment of the size of this bomb. I mean, it could have been bigger. In a sense if you look at it the destruction was potentially
minimal compared to other major bombings we've seen -- you mentioned Bali bombing, for example.
What's your assessment of the size and the capability, the capacity of this bomb?
GOHEL: Well, the bomb itself was definitely significant enough. The fact that the death toll is over at least a dozen and could potentially
rise. And it's not just the death toll, it's those that have been injured and maimed as well, which goes into the dozens at the moment. If we look
at the tactic that's been used in southeast Asia in the past such as in Bali. The strategy has been to use vehicle-born improvised explosive
devices, and that is explosives attached to vehicles. Often it's been with vans, small cars, but motorcycles have often been used frequently, too,
because of the fact that they are easier to obtain, less likely to arouse suspicion, and also for the individuals and the culprits to move around
So that is something the authorities do need to now look at as the -- if this motorcycle that was used potentially -- has it been stolen. Where
was it purchased, who by. These type of things need to be investigated very quickly in case there is the potential of other cells that are
operating, wanting to carry out attacks, or this particular cell itself.
More questions need to be asked as to how these individuals were planning this attack and has there been an intelligence failing, because
something like this, even though the attack -- the explosive may not have been as big as it potentially could have been, nevertheless it's
significant enough. And it's left deep scars in Bankok.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANDERSON: Sajan Gohel speaking to CNN just in the past hour or so.
I'm joined now on the phone by Chris Baker. He is a political analyst and co-author of the book "A History of Thailand."
And as we consider what has happened, who do you believe, Chris, is most likely to want to wage terror in the very heart of Bangkok, in the
middle of rush hour.
CHRIS BAKER, AUTHOR: You know, it's -- I don't think we have information yet that can let us follow up that question very sensibly.
Following up from what your last respondent was talking about. If you look at the pictures, the bomb was clearly placed inside the shrine compound.
You can see it blew the wall outward. And I doubt it was delivered on the motorbike.
I think the blast -- it's a very, very crowded area. There would have been a lot of motorbikes going past. And I think just several motorbikes
that were going past the shrine at that time got caught by the blast and probably their petrol exploded and that made it very dramatic.
What is -- but inside that shrine at any time of day you will have any thing from 100 to 200 to 250 people worshiping at that place. So to place
the bomb there you can rely upon getting a very high casualty rate without necessarily having a particularly big bomb.
And what is also striking looking at these pictures is that the Brahma image in the center of that shrine, which is probably no more than about 10
meters away from where the bomb probably was, is unhurt. It's absolutely untouched at all.
And all the lights and so on and electricity around that shrine are still working in the pictures that were taken immediately after the blast.
So, I don't think it was a particularly big blast. I think it was just very artfully placed in order to have a very high casualty rate,
because you know here's going to be a lot of people there. And also getting this secondary effect, which may not have been planned, but was a
good one to catch these motorcycles on the road.
So, I don't necessarily think at the moment we are thinking about a big bomb or a very big operation.
[11:26:45] ANDERSON: Chris, according to the police chief, we now know that 16 sadly are confirmed dead many others are injured. As you just
described how you assess the situation, would it be fair to say that you wouldn't be surprised if sadly more people had lost their lives or have
been injured in this blast?
BAKER: Absolutely not. But just because I think yes, but it could be -- there could be many who are now injured in the hospitals who will
succumb later, because this is a very crowded area and they could have got very badly hurt. We don't know yet. Yes, it could be a much bigger death
ANDERSON: Well, we've talked about whether this blast has the hallmarks of a local terror group, or whether this is a signal of the work
of a transnational group. And at this point, clearly pure speculation.
If you can just step back for our viewers and just remind them as you have authored this book, the history of Thailand, of the sort of most
recent past, the terror waged on this country in the most recent past. And just how the atmosphere has changed, if at all, over the last couple of
BAKER: Well, there has been -- there is a major conflict within the politics of the country, which has been going on now for over a decade.
And this is a fairly common kind of conflict that you see in many parts of the world where, you know, there are a lot of people who were more of the
ordinary people who think they have more of a say in the country, who have been pushing very hard and been demonstrating on the street.
But also there's been a counter movement, which has also taken to the streets. The news demonstrations -- and all of these have got somewhat
violent at particular times. But it's very difficult to work out how either side in this group would want to target an area which is largely for
tourists, you know, and that probably we're going to find out in the end that there's a very high number of tourists, of non-Thais, in the death
toll coming from here.
So, I think it's very difficult to work out how either side of this conflict might want to target this area. There are many more kind of
politically symbolic targets that they would want to go after.
Then, of course you have the...
ANDERSON: And Chris...
BAKER: Sorry -- go ahead.
ANDERSON: Sorry, I was just -- as you considered just who might be behind this, I just wanted out viewers to be aware of exactly what we do
know at this point. 16 confirmed dead in this Thailand blast, according to the police chief, another 67 people are confirmed injured in the blast
according to the emergency medical services center on the scene -- sorry, continue.
BAKER: Yeah, I mean, then the possibility that this is an extension from the insurgency in the south. And there you have a position in which a
minority in the south who are basically Muslim melees have been pushing now for over 200 years for some kind of autonomy. And since 2004, this pressure
has escalated in the south and has been absolutely terrible. There is violence almost every day in that area and several thousand have been
killed in the last 10 years.
But what has been significant there up until now perhaps is that the violence has been contained within the area in the south which they are
protesting about, which they want to have some greater degree of autonomy. And analysts have tended to see that this has been part of their strategy,
but they don't want to widen it to a bigger area. they don't want to target obviously sort of easy areas like the center of Bangkok, which would
have been quite easy for them to have done this in the past.
And the fact that it has stayed contained to this area in the south for so long has been seen to be strategic on their part.
But OK, maybe they have changed their minds. And that is obviously one thing that will have to come out in the future.
[11:31:24] ANDERSON: Yeah, and the investigation of course at very, very early stage at this point.
Chris Baker is a political analyst and co-author of the book "A Histoy of Thailand." Chris, thank you very much indeed for your analysis this
You're watching breaking news coverage from Thailand. Many casualties are reported after a bomb blast rocked central Bangkok.
Now it happened in a popular tourist area near the Erawan Shrine, major hotels and a shopping mall. A police chief says that at least 16
people have died. CNN senior cameraman Mark Phillips joining us now with more.
At least 16 dead, 67 injured at this point. And as our correspondents and analysts have been pointing out in the past hour or so, Mark, those
numbers could rise significantly at this point. What are you hearing?
PHILLIPS: At the moment, only same as you've got that there are 16 confirmed dead and well over 50 injured. At the moment, at the scene here,
things have quieted down. It is 10:30 at night here. So the city is emptying out. But the police have pushed everybody back the cordons are
There's activity down at the scene, but not as much as before. The police I think going through the thing quite slowly, just making sure that
they don't miss anything. Still, the burned out motorbikes are still sitting in the middle of the road. They haven't been moved. It's been
cordoned off and the police are looking at the bikes very closely to see what evidence they can probably pick off those motorcycles -- Becky.
ANDERSON: And Mark, is it clear where these blasts actually took place at this point?
PHILLIPS: It's hard to tell. I mean, nobody can (inaudible) whether it took place inside the shrine or on the intersection outside the shrine.
What we can see is -- what I could see before was two burned out motorbikes outside the shrine with a number of motorbikes around it thrown to the
ground. And I could see the extent of the shrine has been pushed in by the force of the blast.
So, looking at it, it looked like it happened outside the shrine, but I'm not down there and nobody is concerned, you know, where the bomb
ANDERSON: Again, for those who may just be joining, Mark, just describe where this happened in Bangkok and its significance, if you will.
PHILLIPS: Erawan Shrine is basically almost the center of Bangkok's shopping district. Across the road from it, you have the Central World
Shopping Center, which is I think the largest shopping center in Bangkok. And then you have a whole set of hotels around it. You have the
Intercontinental, the Holiday Inn, the Grand Hyatt. These are big tourist hotels. And tourists come down here so they can stay in the hotels and go
to all these shopping centers around here.
And the shrine sits basically right in the middle of all this in the major intersection in Thailand here.
And tourists come through here. They do their shopping and then they go down to the shrine. They see people -- there's always dancers down
there at the shrine. You can buy incense you can burn. And you can have a -- you can pray. And a lot of tourists do that, it's a very kind of Thai
thing to do and you kind of like you embrace the culture and such. And it's always busy.
And when this bomb went off at 7:00 it would have been peak time for people who were going home. It was the prime time for people leaving work
and tourists going back from their shopping back to the hotel, so it would have been a busy time when this bomb went off.
ANDERSON: Mark Phillips is our senior photojournalist on the scene for you in Bangkok. Mark, stand by.
I want to bring in Saijin Gohel. You heard from him a moment ago. He's now in our London studio. He's the international security director at
the Asia-Pacific Foundation. Saijin, this may not have been a particularly big or sophisticated device, as one of our analysts has just pointed out,
but it was clearly designed for maximum effect.
Whether it was inside a bag, inside the shrine, as some are suggesting now, or outside on a motorbike and driven past, your assessment?
GOHEL: Becky, this attack has been designed to severe a major artery of Bangkok. This is central area of the capital, of Thailand. It is a
place where foreigners, tourists and local Thais congregate, especially this attack happened during the evening rush hour where there is a very
large concentration of people.
And if you look at the intention, it is designed to kill foreigners and Thais alike. It is potentially designed to hurt the country's economy,
most notably tourism.
We've seen how deadly that has been in places like Tunisia where tourism has come to a standstill following the attack at the resort a
couple of months ago. And now this incident has taken place.
It may not be on a large scale, but nevertheless we've seen the visualization of terrorism, the CCTV footage picked up the explosion. It
has created collateral damage. It has injured many people and has killed some. And the worry is it could be as follow. It could be a starting
point for followup attacks.
ANDERSON: We've been considering as we wait to learn more from the investigation which is clearly in the very, very early hours, it's a blast
that occurred in Bangkok around about 6:56 in the evening. So only about three, three-and-a-half hours ago.
We've been considering whether this has the hallmarks of a local terror group or whether it signals the work of a transnational group. Your
GOHEL: Well, there are two suspicions. It could be a local group from southern Thailand where there is a Malay indigenous population, some
of whom are agitating for separation or for greater autonomy.
But the type of attacks that they've carried out are very basic, simple, sometimes they've just been drive-by shootings on motorbikes.
This attack seemed to involve a bit more reconnaissance, planning, a degree of sophistication potentially suggesting it would be connected to a
more powerful transnational group Jamaa Islamiya (ph), the group that carried out the 2002 Bali bombings, often has been mentioned as a culprit
in southeast Asian terrorist attacks. But their leadership has been decimated.
It could be another group, a new outfit that has international connections potentially those Thais that have traveled to Iraq and Syria to
link up with ISIS. We need to wait for more information, but this perhaps shows it's more of an international plot.
ANDERSON: Is this a country that has effectively been on terror alert?
GOHEL: Well, ever since the 2002 Bali attack, Thailand has spent a lot on improving its intelligence, on cooperation with regional partners
and also with the western community, with the United States. Remember, Bangkok was where the mastermind for the Bali attack, Kombali (ph), was
arrested. And it's often been seen as a transit point for terrorist groups in the past.
The question will remain that has there been an intelligence failure? Was there a bit of information that could have been picked up, that could
have foiled this particular plot.
But in many ways, unfortunately, Thailand fits in to the modus operandi of terrorist group, that is a large concentration of foreigners,
an attack would hurt the economy. It was also designed to create social and political repercussions as well.
ANDERSON: Whoever is behind this attack, Sajan, what is clear is that it will hurt tourism, it will hurt the Thai economy. Whatever the goal
those two clearly tick the boxes, correct?
GOHEL: Absolutely. And this is now the tactic that we are witnessing. It's not necessarily about the large al Qaeda plots to bring
down the aviation industry, these plots may be smaller in scale, but nevertheless it's designed to kill, injure, it's designed to have enormous
economic ramifications. It's also designed to create disruption, to change the way we feel and think about our safety and security.
And a place like this in the heart of Bangkok, an attack like this will worry tourists. It will have an impact in the short-term. Terrorists
will also get inspired by other attacks just like they saw in Tunisia. The attacks there have devastated the tourism industry. Thailand also depends
very much on foreigners for its tourism. It's a country that has always been very welcoming and opening.
But nevertheless an attack like this will discourage people from traveling there. So whether the attackers killed hundreds or not, whether
just a handful, it is designed to cause disruption. I'm afraid the terrorists always achieve that objective when there's an attack.
ANDERSON: Sajan, stand by. I want to bring in Richard who witnessed the attack and joins us now.
Sir, just describe what you saw what some three or four hours ago now in central Bangkok.
RICHARD, WITNESS: So I was walking towards the intersection where the bombs were going off. And then all of a sudden I hear a loud, loud noise
and then smoke just coming through.
And then about a few seconds later people rushed in all directions. They were coming towards me. They were going, you know, into the
intersection. Everyone was just. It was just a chaotic moment.
ANDERSON: And just describe the atmosphere at the time, if you will.
RICHARD: So, everyone was -- I think it was -- there was a lot of confusion of what went wrong. That area has a lot of tourists, so you
could see the fear and -- you know, they were just really confused what was going on.
Some people thought it was, you know, they didn't think much of it so they just continued walking towards the intersection, but then after maybe
five minutes the intersection was blocked off.
So, everyone was going the other way.
ANDERSON: And clearly -- and very quickly it has emerged that a number of people have died in this attack, 16 at this point. The number
could be higher. That is a confirmed number with as many as 67 injured at this point.
Was it clear from the outset that that people had been hurt in this attack?
RICHARD: Yeah, you have to understand that this is one of the most popular areas in Bangkok. It's a city center, so there's a high number of
foot traffic. And, yes, there -- I would assume that there will be a few more casualties from the blast, because it's such a, you know, it's such an
important part of the city. And it's the central Bangkok.
ANDERSON: Stand by, Richard. I'm just getting more information as we speak. And I'm just hearing now we can confirm here at CNN Center that the
national -- or the Thai national police chief has said that Chinese tourists are among the dead and there is no active bomb threat at the
scene. The very latest.
Among the dead there are Chinese who came to Thailand from the Philippines, according to the police chief. He said the suspicious items
that were being treated as active bombs were actually not bombs at all. He said we found out, and I quote, that the suspect items that were found
earlier are not bombs, they are just garbage bags.
The eludes to some information, and clearly a very chaotic situation, as information -- as this bomb blast had just happened. Information coming
to us that possibly there were bags inside the shrine, possibly one of those bags had exploded and others were being treated as suspect devices.
Well, clearly now the police chief confirming that those indeed were just garbage bags.
Richard, it must have been a very, very terrifying experience for you. Clearly, a deadly one.
You were just explaining this is a very central area. And of course this happened right in the middle of rush hour.
RICHARD: Central of -- there's a lot of shopping malls, a lot of high end hotels around that area. So, you would think this is where the
tourists are, you know, they're either going home, going to dinner or going back to the hotels. So, yes, it's right in the -- right smack in the
middle of rush hour, in the middle of the city.
ANDERSON: OK. I want to bring in Sajan back in. Richard, thank you.
Let's bring Sajan back in. Sajan, we are getting more information from the police now as to the characteristics of this device. The police
have said that only one bomb detonated weighing some three kilograms and that the bomb was intended to take lives, clearly. The police chief also
said it was too early to say who might be behind the deadly attack.
But you and I have been considering the characteristics or the profile of who might be behind these attacks and talking about the fact that this
may be a fairly small and unsophisticated device, but clearly designed to terrorize those in the facility.
GOHEL: Very much so, Becky.
If the device is not sophisticated the attack was nevertheless well planned and coordinated to target a major artery of Bangkok, to hit at the
economy, to kill Thai citizens as well as foreign tourists alike. It's also connected to perhaps the second bomb that didn't detonate, because
often when we look at transnational terrorism there is a second bomb that would be designed to target the bystanders running in another direction or
the first responders, the police and the ambulance services that turn up in order to inflict more collateral damage and maim and injure far more
So, the intention is very much clear and apparent. And those motives would suggest that this would be a group that is potentially got
international connections, although at the moment we can't rule out the local militants from southern Thailand as well, but they are more basic in
the type of attacks they have carried out in the past. This would be a major escalation if they are connected to this.
ANDERSON: Let me just bring back Mark Phillips, who is our senior photojournalist in Bangkok and at the scene.
And Mark just to update our viewers and to get a line from you, Chinese tourists we now have been told are among the dead and there is no
active bomb threat at the scene. The police saying that only one bomb detonated weighing some three kilograms and the bomb was intended to take
What else are you learning as this investigation in its very early stages Mark is carried out?
PHILLIPS: At the moment, the investigation continues on. The police have cordoned off the area and they're still searching the debris. They
haven't removed anything. They haven't removed motorbikes. They're still laying there. And they're picking through it very, very slowly, making
sure I think they get all the evidence that they can get.
The one thing you have to remember also was that yes it is a huge tourist area, but it also was the end of the school holiday, so there would
have been a lot more people down here than usual. Over the last couple of years, because of the coups that have happened in Thailand the tourism has
trailed off. And it had been picking up slowly. So this is going to be a bit of a knock to tourism industry and to the economy, Becky.
ANDERSON: Well, you live in the country, live in the city. Were you aware of any sort of terror threat? Has there been any talk, any chatter
that one should be any more concerns than normal in any big city?
PHILLIPS: No, not in Thailand. Usually when there's the big -- when there's trouble between the red and yellow shirts here, you know, there's
always -- you always get a little bit cautious when you go out on the streets. But there hasn't been any kind of concern of real terrorist
attacks. There's always been an insurgency in the south, but it's kind of stayed out of Bangkok.
Saying that, also it's a shrine. And you know you'd think the shrines are kind of like off limits, true for both sides. You know, during the red
and yellow shirts, the shrine was always off limits.
To have a bomb go outside a shrine is -- its' a big deal in Thailand, it's a big deal for Bagnkok. And I think it's taken people back a little
bit because it wasn't something that was supposed to be targeted -- Becky.
ANDERSON: And reminding our viewers that this is, of course, a Hindu shrine. But a shrine in which Buddhists in their thousands worship, too,
and a very big draw mark for tourists who visit Bangkok.
PHILLIPS: ...shrine. I mean, there's always dancers down there. You can go down there and buy incense and lighters and you can say a prayer.
It's all very open. People can look down onto it. And it's -- you know, there's flower sellers outside.
And I've taken my children down there. And you know it's something that it's part of embracing the culture, as they say. You know, you bring
the kids in there. They wash their hands. They, you know, they put out the flowers and it's just a nice family thing and the Thais are wonderful
and they embrace everybody. It's a real touristy, family thing to do.
So, I think that's one of the reasons why I think local people from Bangkok will be quite upset with the bombing that's taken place here. It's
an attack of a religious site like that.
[11:50:22] ANDERSON: Let's bring in Sajan back in -- thank you, Mark.
Let's bring Sajan Gohel back in who is an international security analyst. Sajan, what will authorities be doing now as they clearly comb
the site for evidence of what happened. What will their next strategy be, as it were, in the investigation into who was behind this attack?
GOHEL: Well, Becky, there seems to be a suspicion that the culprits had come on a motorcycle and potentially one of the explosives may have
been attached to the motorcycle. This is something that needs to be investigated as to where those vehicles were purchased, where they stolen.
Have the individuals been control of those vehicles for some time.
That is perhaps potentially the international starting point that could take place. Also, cooperation with Thailand's neighbors and the
United States is going to be very important because this may be beyond the scope of Thailand itself. They may need the United States to work with
them, to provide some intelligence and information, electronic chatter that potentially was ignored along the lines, but should perhaps been paid
But a lot of different angles that are going to have to be approached, I'm afraid, to ascertain, because the worry is that those culprits are
still out there, maybe a potential plot in the future could be planned.
ANDERSON: How close is the cooperation between, for example, Thai authorities and U.S. intelligence agencies?
GOHEL: It's very close. It's very good. And it hs proved to be very effective in the past. The 2002 Bali attacks, which killed over 200
people, including 88 Australians, was matersminded by an individual known as Humbali (ph). He was actually arrested in Thailand with the cooperation
of Thai authorities in conjunction with the United States, and ever since then that cooperation has proved to be very effective in dismantling
networks belonging to Jamaa Islamiyah (ph), the group behind the attack.
And because Thailand is often been seen as a transit point for a number of different terrorist groups, not just JI, but also with al Qaeda
as well. And that cooperation has proved to be effective.
But in situations like this it's going to be more important than ever before.
ANDERSON: Sajan, as you speak we are just getting in -- and our viewers are watching -- the first images coming to CNN Center from Reuters
of the hospital where victims of this Bangkok bomb blast have been taken.
We'll be getting more from the bomb scenes as the minutes continue.
So here the pictures -- the first pictures from the hospital where casualties have been taken. Let's just confirm for you viewers what we
know at present. 16 confirmed dead, 67 confirmed casualties. We will continue to update those figures as we get the numbers from authorities.
Clearly, it was a very chaotic situation in the first couple of hours. Mark Phillips who is still standing by, our senior photojournalist on the
scene, though, describing how things have certainly calmed down. It is what, Mark, now quarter to 11:00 or 10 to 11:00 at night.
What are authorities doing to ring fence the scene at this point?
PHILLIPS: They're -- not much has changed over the last couple of hours. So, the last two hours it settled down into a rhythm here. The
police have certainly been investigation, they're still picking over the debris that's left there, checking for any evidence they can find. And
it's -- the city is emptied out because it is 11:00 at night. So the streets are quiet, the trains have almost stopped.
So, I think the police is really getting stuck into their work now. The crowds have all moved away. And basically it's down to journalists and
rescue workers here at the moment -- Becky.
ANDERSON: And perhaps this will be slightly difficult for you to talk to, but others have -- who we have been speaking to in the past couple of
hours describing this as having been a very chaotic site in what is the, you know, center and a very busy part of Bangkok.
But, you know, sort of in the surrounding areas, people just continued about their daily life. This, of course, is a very, very big city and a
very active one, isn't it?
PHILLIPS: It is. I mean, this is where the bomb went off is the main intersection for the tourist -- you know, shopping and tourist center here
and hotels. So, you're looking at, you know, hundreds if not thousands of people going to this intersection all the time. It's constantly flow. You
have a train system that has run over the top of the shrine as well.
So, there's a lot of things going on here, a lot of activity.
The other thing you've got to realize is that people of Bangkok over years and years and years have had coups have had street demonstrations
that have been quite violent at times. And not that they've got used to it, but it's just part of life. If something happens somewhere, they walk
around it. They move on. They have to get on with their lives.
So a bomb going off, even though it's devastating and, you know 16 people are killed and over 60 injured, the Thai -- they move on with life,
you know. They go home. They go to work. They have to do what they have to do.
So, it's not that they don't take it seriously, it's just, they're kind of used to it unfortunately.
ANDERSON: Stand by, Mark. I know that there's -- we will be taking a short break momentarily. I just want to get back to Sajan, but we will be
then taking a very short break. And Robyn Curnow and my colleague will be picking up after this and we'll be bringing back Mark for the very latest
from the scene.
Our senior photojournalist in Bangkok.
Sajan, as we close out this hour, CNN's coverage of course continues of what is this breaking news out of Bangkok, a blast that has killed at
least 16 people and injured more than 50. Your final thoughts this hour.
GOHEL: Becky, I'm afraid this is another type of terrorism in another part of the world that is designed to hit at a country's economy, to kill
locals and foreigners alike, to illustrate the visualization of terrorism where again something on CCTV captures footage that then get relayed around
the world illustrating the horrific nature of today's type of terrorism. It's effectively becoming the new normal now where it's not about the al
Qaeda mass casualty plots, it's more basic, simple, but nevertheless designed to kill, maim and unfortunately leave deep psychological scars on
the minds of people who have had to witness it.
ANDERSON: Sajan Gohel is the international security director at the Asia-Pacific Foundation. It's always a pleasure having you on. Your
analysis is excellent. We thank you very much indeed. Stand by.
My colleague Robyn Curnow will continue this, our breaking news coverage of the blast in Bangkok that is killed some 16 and injured more
than 50. Stay with us.