Tourists walks along Khao San road in Bangkok
Chaiwat Subprasom  /  Reuters
Tourists walk along Khao San road in Bangkok Jan. 1, 2007. Thailand grappled on Monday with the mystery of who was behind a series of bombs in Bangkok that ruined New Year celebrations. The military-installed government said intelligence pointed to politicians who had lost power, not Muslim militants waging a separatist insurgency in the far south, despite similarities of style.
updated 1/2/2007 2:58:06 PM ET 2007-01-02T19:58:06

Deadly New Year's bombings have failed to shatter Bangkok's charms for most visitors - even one wounded in the blasts.

"I can't see why this would deter me from coming back," said Paul Hewitt, a Briton on holiday who was hurt when nine bombs went off across the Thai capital on New Year's Eve and Monday, leaving three people dead and 38 wounded, nine of them foreigners.

"I just happened to be standing in the wrong place at the wrong time. It could've happened anywhere in the world," said Hewitt, 55, a retired flight attendant from Horsham, England who was hospitalized Sunday night but released Monday after being treated for debris that had lodged into his left arm.

Other tourists in Bangkok on Monday agreed with Hewitt. But travel industry insiders and analysts were more worried about the bombings' effects on tourism, a crucial driver of the Thai economy.

"What happened will most certainly hurt tourism, and will likely hurt consumer confidence as well as consumer spending," said analyst Aekpittaya Iemkongaek at brokerage BFIT Securities.

Aekpittaya said the unprecedented series of attacks in Bangkok could keep growth in gross domestic product - the value of good and services a country produces - from reaching the government's projection of 4.5 percent to 5 percent in the next year.

Thailand typically gets about 1 million visitors a month. In November 2006, 1.14 million arrived, up 2.4 percent from the same month in 2005, according to the latest available figures from the Bank of Thailand, the central bank.

Many tourists make repeated trips to enjoy Bangkok's elegant temples, blazing-hot food, riotous nightlife and sidewalks jammed with vendors selling everything from risque T-shirts to fried insects to high-end furniture.

But some governments cautioned their citizens about traveling in Thailand.

Australia, Britain, Canada, New Zealand and the United States issued grim warnings to their citizens, with some advising them to avoid movement within Bangkok and saying more attacks were possible.

Sunathee Ihvarphornchai, vice president for corporate communications at the national airline Thai Airways International, said the carrier has not been getting cancellations.

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However, she said that "if more foreign countries issue more travel warnings, we might get cancellations in the future and the tourism industry may be hurt in the long term."

No one has claimed responsibility for the blasts and less than 12 hours after they occurred, the sirens, screams and breaking glass seemed incomprehensible as the usual crowds of tourists eyed souvenirs and rifled through pirated Hollywood movie DVDs on Bangkok's Sukhumvit Road.

At the Central World Plaza shopping complex - the site of one blast - just-arrived Andrew Tomlinson, who works in marketing in London, said there is now no hiding anywhere from random danger.

"Everywhere you go, you get this," said Tomlinson, 33. "Spain has bombs. England has bombs."

Associated Press writers Ambika Ahuja and Michael Casey in Bangkok contributed to this report.

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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