Thai junta steps up security after Bangkok pipe bombs

Bangkok (AFP) - Thailand's junta vowed Monday to tighten security after two homemade pipe bombs detonated near a Bangkok shopping mall, the first major disruption to an uneasy peace imposed under martial law since last May's coup.

Authorities declined to speculate whether the small bombs -- which caused minor injuries to two passers-by when they exploded near the downtown Paragon mall on Sunday evening -- were linked to the nation's turbulent politics.

But deputy prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon warned the public will now face stepped up security.

"We will strictly enforce security across the country. We need to have high security checks in some areas," he told reporters.

"We can't say who is behind this... it could be people who have bad intentions, or are linked to politics or people who think differently," he added, without elaborating.

A team of forensic police on Monday sifted through the debris created by the blasts, which struck at around 8 pm (1300 GMT) on Sunday on a walkway leading to the busy Paragon shopping centre.

"They were pipe bombs... low pressure explosive devices," national police spokesman Prawut Thavornsiri told reporters.

"They did not aim to cause major damage... they were used to create trouble," he added.

Thailand has been under martial law since the coup toppled the elected government last year, despite growing calls from rights groups and the international community for the junta to rescind the draconian law.

Political gatherings and criticism of the coup are forbidden under the law, with the junta responding aggressively to any form of protest.

Martial law also allows civilians to be tried in military courts, with verdicts not subject to appeal.

The Thai junta has repeatedly justified martial law by saying Thailand's bitter political divisions need more time to heal, while they set about remodelling the kingdom's political structure.

Thailand has endured nearly a decade of political turmoil since billionaire former premier Thaksin Shinawatra rattled the establishment by winning elections with his populist politics.

Parties led by Thaksin, his family or affiliates have won every election since 2001, in the process facing two coups and the disposal of three premiers by Thailand's interventionist courts.

Thaksin's younger sister Yingluck was toppled by a court shortly before the coup and was last month banned from politics by the junta-stacked National Legislative Assembly over a costly rice subsidy scheme.

She now faces criminal charges and a possible jail term linked to the populist policy.

Supporters of the Shinawatras have largely been silenced by martial law, and have not mobilised in defence of a toppled administration they elected in a 2011 election landslide.