BANGKOK, Thailand, AP
A bomb made with C-4 plastic explosives destroyed the jetliner that Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra was due to fly over the weekend, the defense minister said Monday.
The explosion ripped through the floor and ceiling of the Boeing 737-400 parked near the boarding gate, and left a big hole in the tarmac at the Bangkok International Airport, Defense Minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh told a press conference.
He said the bombing on Saturday was planned, but it was too early to say who might be involved or to conclude that the prime minister had been targeted.
“The report I received today says it was clear there was a plan to make things happen, but please don’t jump to the conclusion that the plan was aimed at harming the prime minister. We have more factors to examine,” he said.
The plane exploded 35 minutes before it was due to fly from Bangkok to the northern city of Chiang Mai with 149 passengers including Thaksin. No passengers had boarded the plane. One cabin crew member was killed and seven other airline staff injured.
Chavalit said the attack might be the result of conflicts among various agencies at the airport or among political parties in Thailand. He did not elaborate.
“According to the information we have from those who checked the plane, it was certainly C-4,” Chavalit said, adding that this was alarming as only security organizations or international terrorists would have access to this explosive.
C-4 is a high-quality, military-grade plastic explosive. It is supplied in a powdery form but can be made into a rubbery material and pressed into any shape.
Thaksin said Monday that the blast was caused by a bomb with a mix of TNT, C-4 and other explosives and chemicals.
Thaksin said he was one of the possible targets but there was no proof yet the bomb had been intended for him. “We’re narrowing down the list of possible motives,” he told reporters as he pressed ahead with his work schedule Monday with tightened security. He was now using a bulletproof car, police said.
Whoever was behind the attack was “out of his mind,” Thaksin said, adding that the incident had damaged the country’s reputation.
He said the government had no prior intelligence information on the attack, but vowed that “no one can get away with this.”
The local media have speculated the attack could be linked to Thaksin’s pledge to end drug trafficking blamed on drug lords in neighboring Myanmar, also known as Burma.
Thaksin said the incident would not dilute the government’s anti narcotics drive.
Thaksin took power last month after his party won general elections by an unprecedented margin after campaigning on a raft of populist promises, including an end to corruption and to revive the sluggish economy.
Thailand has a history of coups and violent overthrows of governments, but no prime minister has faced an assassination attempt. The nation has enjoyed political stability under a succession of democratic governments for the last eight years.
Thaksin suggested Sunday that if he was the target, attackers would have had inside information about his schedule, as he had originally planned to go to Chiang Mai on Sunday but told his secretary Friday to change the flight to Saturday afternoon.
There have been conflicting reports of where the bomb was planted.
Earlier reports said it was under Thaksin’s assigned seat. But Lt. Gen. Sant Sarutanond, the national deputy police chief, said police are investigating a frozen meat package that had been loaded in the cargo hold after only a sample had passed a security inspection. Chavalit said the wheel compartment is also being considered.
Sant said the possible involvement of airport staff cannot be ruled out.
Results of official investigations into the blast _—involving police, air force, Thai Airways and airport officials — should be complete in the next few days, he said. Representatives from the airplane maker Boeing arrived in Thailand late Sunday.
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board also sent five officials to Thailand, the U.S. Embassy said.