Thailand saw multiple bombing blasts and arson attacks during the evening on Thursday 11 August and in the early morning on 12 August, Her Majesty the Queen’s birthday and Mother’s Day in Thailand, of which four of the blasts hit downtown Hua Hin, Scandinavian’s undisputed favourite. This forced the seaside resort town into a temporary lockdown and security raised to high alert all over Hua Hin.
A multitude of roadblocks had however eased by Saturday morning, Peter Nilsson, the Swedish General Manager at Centara Grand Beach Resort & Villas Hua Hin, told ScandAsia.
The seires of bomb blasts and arson attacks, which took place in Trang, Hua Hin, Phuket, Surat Thani, Phangnga, Krabi and Nakhon Si Thammarat, killed four people and injured 35.
In Hua Hin, where the centre is part of Thailand’s tourist heartland, the first blast on 11 August came at 10.15 pm by John Bar Beer, followed by second blast at a spa. One person died and 14 were injured in these two attacks.
Then, on 12 August, the series attacks culminated with another to bombs in Hua Hin, the first one at 9.00 am near the clock tower, followed by a second bomb at 9.05 am, killing one and injuring three.
“I obtained the information through various channels, not least through social media, where news these days move extremely fast. Quite soon it stood clear that two detonations had exploded in downtown Hua Hin. Despite that the distance from the hotel to the area where this happened is less than 500 metres no staff or guests heard the detonations, which I understand was minor,” said GM Peter Nilsson from the legendary former railway hotel.
He confirmed that the hotel was nearly full, as the long weekend began on Thursday evening with many coming to Hua Hin to celebrate Mother’s Day.
“We have since Friday established a ‘lock down’ of the hotel which means that no unauthorized persons, guests or visitors, such as suppliers can enter the hotel area. Registered guests can of course move freely within and outside the hotel.”
“On Friday there where a number of road blocks around the city and a number of areas where the bombs hade detonated, and where new explosives had been found. I have information that during the Friday and throughout the night towards Saturday the police and military has been working hard to secure all ‘risk areas’ including Hua Hin beach with the assistance of various technical equipment and reconnaissance dogs,” Peter Nilsson furthermore reported. “On Saturday morning I drove around early and only found one police/military checkpoint in the northbound lane by the airport as well as one south of the city.”
“We have been in constant contact with the authorities and have received continuing information about the security situation, not only in Hua Hin but in the county as a whole.”
Within the hotel Peter and his team set on activating a number of steps.
“We have well established routines for events of this nature, which, among other things, triggers an immediate head count of all guests and hotel associates and strengthening of the security around and within the hotel.
We have a special hotel management crisis group which was immediately set in motion and that has since then worked on a number of measures to ensure us that all our guests, personnel and infrastructure in and around the hotel are secured. In addition to basically doubling the number of security guards protecting the hotel with extraordinary staff with special security routines, we hired a very experienced specialist in security, who for the time being stays at the hotel.“
In informing all the guests he said that they prefer verbal person-to-person communication.
“But when nearly 500 guests rapidly need prompt and correct information it becomes necessary with general information letters written in various languages to all rooms and villas, plus on larger ‘posters’ in our lobby, the restaurants etc. This written information, that I know reaches all guests, have been updated two times daily up until now and we continue to give updates for the time being.”
“On Friday the atmosphere was of course gloomy among both guests and staff, which is fully understandable. But on Saturday morning it felt a bit like the ‘sky had cleared’ and I can once again see many beautiful Thai smiles and also some Scandinavian white teeth among our guests,” said the GM.
During the lockdown with roadblocks Centara Grand Beach Resort & Villas Hua Hin also made sure that guests could arrive and leave, however not via the ordinary route.
“Hua Hin was partly cordoned off from the main traffic route Petchkasem, from Thursday night until Saturday morning, when the hotel’s drivers found alternative routes to and from the hotel; mainly through Soi 11′, which takes the journey towards the south of the city anhd then out on the ringroad around Hua Hin (instead of through Cha-Am). Guests who arrived or left the hotel by car were all informed of this alternative route.”
ScandAsia also spoke the former Executive Director for the Thai-Swedish Chamber of Commerce as well as European Association for Business and Commerce (EABC), Mr John Svengren who had just moved down to Hua Hin from Bangkok a fortnight ago.
”The security in the villa estate where I live is on high alert and nobody is allowed in except residents,” said John Svengren.
He said that the shopping mall Market Village was closed for security reasons on Friday 12 August.
“It is easy to panic but this world is uncertain, it’s in fact very unstable!” he commented and expressed whether the authorities could handle the situation.
In a statement on 13 August Thailand’s Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha said that: “The attacks will be a constant reminder for Thais, as well as a testimony to the fact that there are immoral people still residing in our society, who have stirred up disturbances even before the referendum and on this very auspicious day. The national Mother’s day, which should have been a day of joy and togetherness for Thai families, as we honour Her Majesty the Queen, has been tainted with such grievous incidents.”
“While it cannot be concluded at this very moment as to who has been behind these acts, please allow the authorities concerned to undertake their tasks to the best of their abilities, without undue aggravation, as the government renders full support to our security agencies. The Government shall provide its utmost support to the security authorities and keep the general public updated on the investigations into these incidents. Any necessary warning to the public shall be issued should it be needed, until the situation becomes clearer through evidence gathered and with judicial processes,” the Prime Minister furthermore stated.
“From this moment onward, with a view to upholding public safety, we urge the general public to stay vigilant and assign volunteers in your own area to oversee all important places and tourist locations throughout the country and immediately inform the security agencies nearby if any suspicious activities found. To all Diplomatic and Consular corps as well as all foreign nationals living in Thailand, the Government stands ready to ensure the safety and security of the interest of all nationals. At this moment it is crucial for all Thais to be united in order to bring about security and safety.“