On August 1 and 2, 2019, while U.S. Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo was attending the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Foreign Ministerial Meetings in Bangkok, Thailand, several small bombs detonated throughout the city. One of the bombs was near the 77-story King Power Mahanakhon skyscraper where the Secretary Pompeo was delivering his remarks.
Police recorded nine incidents of small improvised explosive devices — dubbed
“ping-pong bombs” due to their size, and 10 incidents involving incendiary improvised explosive devices at several locations in Bangkok and neighboring Nonthaburi Province. Targeted sites included a commuter train station, the side of a busy main road near the 77-story King Power Mahanakhon skyscraper, and Royal Thai Police Headquarters, located on the opposite side of the vehicle entrance to the Centara Convention Center where Secretary Pompeo was delivering an address at the ASEAN meetings. The explosions did not disrupt the event.
More than half of the officers from the response team were trained in explosives incident countermeasures by the U.S. Department of State’s Antiterrorism Assistance (ATA) program.
Established by Congress in 1983, the ATA program is the premier counterterrorism training and equipment provider for specialized police units in friendly foreign nations. Funded by the Department’s Bureau of Counterterrorism and implemented on the ground by the Bureau of Diplomatic Security, the ATA program has evolved into a key pillar of the U.S. counterterrorism strategy, partnering with 154 nations to train and equip law enforcement partners whose actions have saved lives.
“The ATA program in Thailand began in 1994 and has been a huge success. Many of our colleagues in the Royal Thai Police have participated in ATA training, which has helped our office develop the great relationship we share today,” said Christopher Baltz, U.S. Embassy Bangkok Assistant Regional Security Officer.
Baltz, who manages the ATA program in Thailand, said that ATA has had a longstanding partnership with the Thai law enforcement community. ATA plans to expand its cooperation with Thai police by introducing new bomb-tech and cyber investigation programs in 2020. “This new initiative will create a safer environment for Thai citizens and the 1.2 million Americans who visit Thailand each year,” Baltz added.
The ATA-trained deputy commander of the Metropolitan Police Bureau’s Special Operations Division led the investigation into the IED explosions. Soon after the attacks, police arrested two suspects. No group has claimed responsibility for the attacks.