Civilian Military Trials May Resume After Bombing

Police and military officers collect evidence May 22, 2017, at the scene of bombing at Phramongkutklao Hospital.

BANGKOK — In lieu of Monday’s bomb attack at an army-owned hospital, the junta is considering resuming military trials for civilians.

The plan emerged as police have yet to identify the perpetrators of Monday’s blast, which injured dozens, while a warning letter before the blast claimed it the work of Muslim separatists, and the prime minister denied it was an inside job.

“They are having a meeting about it,” defense spokesman Kongcheep Tantravanich said Wednesday. “They see this issue as an issue of national security. They see it as sabotage that affects the morale of the entire country. It affects national security.”

Read: Reaching for Blame, Police Connect Bombings a Decade Apart

Shortly after Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha seized power from the elected government in May 2014, he authorized military tribunals for protesters, junta critics and suspects accused of plotting violence. The use of military courts for new civilian cases was abolished in September, following criticism from human rights groups.

But Maj. Gen. Kongcheep said its return will not damage civil rights because it’s only meant to target “people who have malicious intent toward the country.”

No one has claimed responsibility for Monday’s bombing at Phramongkutklao Hospital, though nearly every bomb attack in the past has gone unclaimed. The attack coincided with the anniversary of the coup d’etat that brought the current regime to power in 2014.

However, police said they had found the connection between the hospital attack and two smaller explosions in Bangkok in the past two months, as well as the series of bombings that struck the capital on New Year’s Eve a decade ago.

Deputy police commissioner Srivara Ransibrahmanakul, who has been put in charge of the investigation, also said an anonymous person sent Phramongkutklao Hospital a letter warning of a bomb attack three days before the incident.

Although Gen. Srivara did not disclose details of the letter, police sources told the media it was sent to the director of the National Cancer Institute, located close to Phramongkutklao Hospital, warning of “terror attacks” at three unspecified hospitals in the area.

“Within this year there will be terror attacks inside three public hospitals in the area by the BRN and [Islamic State] movements. They entered the country through Malaysia last week. Watch out for Muslim women wearing veils and backpacks,” the letter reportedly said. It was signed “a repentant criminal.”

The Barisan Revolusi Nasional, or BRN, is the name of a separatist movement in Thailand’s Muslim-majority southern provinces which is said to have carried out other high-profile bombing campaigns.

Police spokesman Krissana Pattanacheroen said he could not confirm the letter’s contents.

“I only saw it on the news, like you,” Col. Krissana said. “I didn’t get to see the actual letter yet.”

Meanwhile junta chairman and Prime Minister Prayuth dismissed online speculation from some anti-coup critics that the government staged the bombing as a false-flag operation. He also hinted that it was an anti-government faction who might have been responsible.

“Don’t distort it and say the government did it. No government would be crazy enough to do that,” Prayuth told reporters Tuesday. “Except people who want to be government and think of doing it. But I don’t think like that.”