By SUCHAT SRITAMA
PRIME Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and other Asean leaders yesterday strongly condemned terrorist attacks in Brussels that caused dozens of casualties while authorities in Bangkok and regional capitals stepped up security measures.
In a message of condolence to his Belgian counterpart, Prayut said he was deeply shocked and saddened to learn of the devastating attacks in Brussels on Tuesday morning.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the people of Belgium during this time of anguish. Thailand stands with the international community and strongly condemns this senseless act of violence on innocent people,” he said in the letter.
Asean headquarters also issued a statement yesterday condemning the attack and expressing sympathy and condolences to Belgium. “Asean reaffirms its strong commitment to working closely with the international community in the fight against terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, regardless of their motivation, wherever, whenever and by whomsoever it is committed,” it said.
Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan, who oversees security matters, said he had instructed relevant agencies to be vigilant of a terrorist threat even though Thailand is not a party to any conflict. The situation in Belgium indicated that terrorist attacks could happen at any time and Thailand must be vigilant, he said. “Police have to closely monitor [the situation] and we have clear plans about this matter,” Prawit told reporters.
The Royal Thai Police instructed the Immigration Bureau yesterday to strictly check travellers at all checkpoints and airports. Thai police would also contact Belgian authorities to coordinate information about the movement of terrorists, Immigration Bureau chief Pol Lt-General Natthorn Phrosunthorn said.
Airports and rail lines ‘on alert’
The BTS Skytrain and MRT subway tightened security yesterday at all stations as passengers were searched more stringently than usual.
Tourism Minister Kobkarn Wattanav-rangkul joined police inspectors at Suvarnabhumi Airport to ensure effective security measures were in place.
Thailand had been at a heightened state of “level three” alert since the bomb attack at Ratchaprasong last August, Kobkarn said.
Prasong Poontaneat, chairman of Airports of Thailand Plc (AOT), said that it had tightened security at its six international airports in Thailand.
He said all airports had been conducting level three security measures since the Paris terrorist attacks in November.
The level three alert means airport security conduct more security patrols in and around airport, increase searches of passengers and luggage, perform random checks for explosives, ban parking in front of terminal, and constantly monitor CCTV.
Travel companies and tour guides have been urged to issue safety alerts for people travelling to and within Europe.
Suparerk Soorangura, president of the outbound-orientated Thai Travel Agents Association (TTAA), said the association had warned all travel agents and guides to consider customer safety and security when travelling in Europe.
“They [travel companies and guides] should be aware of safety and remind customers to stay far from suspect objects or bags while on trips,” he said.
However, Suparkerk said members had not reported cancellations or postponements.
More than 100,000 Thai tourists visited Belgium last year, but the country is not the main point of entry into Europe for travellers from Thailand, who tend to go to the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy or Switzerland before visiting Belgium.
Suparerk said thousands of Thais have booked trips to Europe, many of them over Songkran. The TTAA travel fair in February had record-high bookings as airlines, notably from the Middle East, and travel operators offered cheap prices due to lower fuel prices and competition.