The terror that struck at the heart of Bangkok should not be allowed to sap its soul. That would fulfil the evil intent of the perpetrator more comprehensively than the carnage inflicted by the pipe bomb planted near a shrine in a shopping and business area. The "worst ever attack", as Thailand's Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha described it, will sorely test a nation that has endured all kinds of violence for years.
In its war-torn southern region, bomb blasts and deaths are common - stemming from the near-daily conflict between government forces and breakaway Muslim rebels. The chaos the city sees tends to be more of the political kind, when street protests get out of hand. But a few months ago, two bombs of unknown origin exploded outside the Siam Paragon shopping mall - part of a scatter over the years that had disrupted the city's rhythm only momentarily.
This tragic incident is different for the aim calculatedly taken at innocents, including tourists, in a place that people throng reflexively to soak in a visitor attraction, a shopping centre and the hustle and bustle around nearby hotels. It thus holds the potential of wreaking larger harm, as was evident when the Thai baht and stocks slumped yesterday because the market feared the impact on the economy of a general sense of insecurity. It was a case of fear feeding fear - the stock-in-trade of all terrorists, two-bit and organised. Succumbing to this altogether would diminish a South-east Asian metropolis that has long been associated with vibrancy and robustness. Thailand's neighbours and nations farther afield, who share in its sorrow over the deaths and horrific injuries inflicted by the bomb, would wish for it a speedy return to normalcy for the sake of both Bangkok residents and the rest of the country.
The immediate focus should be on easing the suffering of the victims of the attack and restoring confidence in the city. Gratifyingly, deputy national police spokesman Kissana Phathanacharoen had taken pains to highlight that there was neither any evidence to link the latest bombing to previous ones, nor to suggest it's a precursor to further attacks.
Given the ease with which a pipe bomb (linked to the blast) can be made there, Bangkok residents and travellers have a part to play as well in remaining vigilant and taking common-sense precautions, while the authorities heighten surveillance, secure vulnerable areas and strive to hunt down the bomber. Although a political motive for the attack cannot be ruled out yet, the military junta would be wise to avoid a witch hunt that could heighten tensions among rival political factions.
In Bangkok's moment of anguish, all differences should be put aside so its people can stand together to safeguard their city and stand up to this act of terror, whatever its provenance.
This article was first published on August 19, 2015.
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