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Thai Government Seeks Those Responsible for New Year's Eve Bombings

Thai police and soldiers are patrolling the streets of Bangkok as investigators hunt those responsible for a series of bombings on New Year's Eve. Several countries have warned their citizens in Thailand to take security precautions in the wake of the bombings. VOA's Suzanne Presto reports from Bangkok.

New Year's Day was reserved in Bangkok, after a wave of small bomb blasts tore through Thailand's capital in the last hours of 2006. At least three Thai citizens were killed, and more than 30 Thais and foreign tourists were injured.

It is not clear who is responsible for the bombings. But officials such as General Achiravit Supanpasat, the deputy national police chief, say the attacks were aimed at creating panic during the New Year's celebrations.

The general tells journalists the bombings were intended to discredit the authorities who keep the peace.

A former senator, Kraisak Choonhavan, says the blasts were an attempt to undermine the government. The Thai military deposed Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra in a bloodless coup in September.

"It is obviously to discredit this government that has been gentleman-like, even though they come from a military coup," he said.

Officials and political analysts have said anti-coup groups were likely involved in the violence, but they have not accused Mr. Thaksin or his allies. Mr. Thaksin's lawyer and other supporters have denied having any links to the attacks.

Kraisak says those who set the bombs might have wanted to divert attention from investigations into allegations of corruption during Mr. Thaksin's government.

"My theory is that it is the remnants of the old regime, as it gets closer to the revelation of all that corruption that went on," he said.

Thai officials have said they do not believe the blasts are linked to Muslim insurgents who have staged similar attacks in southern Thailand.

That violence has left more than 1,800 people dead in the past three years. The attacks forced officials to cancel New Year's Eve celebrations in the city, which is crowded with foreign tourists. Now, military personnel, not revelers, are patrolling the streets. Some foreign governments, such as the United States and Australia, have urged their citizens in Bangkok to avoid public gatherings and take other security precautions.