Volunteers clean up debris at the bomb explosion site last Friday.
Life is back to normal in Betong on Monday (28 July 2014) – three days after the southernmost Thai town was rocked by a surprise car-bomb explosion last Friday evening.
Three people were killed and more than 55 wounded when the bomb exploded in front of the Holiday Hill Hotel about 4.30 p.m. Thai time.
The blast, believed to be caused by a 30kg homemade bomb, shattered glass windows of shophouses nearby and damaged a few cars.
The attack was a surprise as Betong – one of five districts in Yala province – has been one of the most peaceful cities in the far south of Thailand, bustling with Malaysian tourists who normally come over the weekend to enjoy the town’s nightlife. The presence of Malaysian tourists has contributed significantly to Betong’s economic growth, in addition to the booming cross-border trade, which is in favor of Thailand.
Thai exports through this border crossing are worth around 1,856 million baht a year, while imports are worth about 39 million baht.
But it is cross-border tourism that has contributed significantly to Betong’s booming real estate, hotel, and entertainment development.
This small town boasts seven 7-Eleven stores, hundreds of hotel rooms, four big discotheques, and nearly 100 small hotels catering mostly to Malaysian tourists.
Betong Mayor Somyot Lertlamyong said the bomb attack caught everyone by surprise, and he would do his utmost to restore Thai and foreign tourist confidence in Betong tourism. Local businesses and people engaged in tourism-related industries will work together to restore public confidence.
It was fortunate that the bomb went off before 6 p.m., when the area would be filled with tourists and office workers on their way home.
Another major act of terror in Betong took place in 2006, when insurgents simultaneously bombed 22 commercial banks in all five districts of Yala, including six in Betong.