Thailand terror shakes up Israelis in Bangkok

Bangkok is a major draw for post-army Israelis, tens of thousands of whom pass through the city before fanning out on trips across Southeast Asia.

By TIBOR KRAUSZ, JERUSALEM POST CORRESPONDENT
February 16, 2012 02:19
2 minute read.
Thai policeman takes photo of terror site

Thai policeman takes photo of terror site_390. (photo credit: Reuters)

 
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BANGKOK – As a long-time resident of Bangkok, Israeli Shuki Rosenzweig, has lived through a military coup, years of roiling political unrest, and most recently, a devastating flood late last year that submerged much of Bangkok in deep water for weeks on end.

Yet it was Tuesday’s bomb attacks by a suspected Iranian terrorist that have finally dampened his mood.

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“In Israel we’re used to [terrorist attacks],” said the Jerusalemite, 44, who has made a name for himself in Bangkok as a veteran Muay-Thai martial arts fighter. “But it’s sad that terrorism is following us to a safe haven like Bangkok. There’s just no escaping it anymore.”

Rosenzweig lives in central Bangkok, within walking distance of where Saeid Morabi, an Iranian national, went on a rampage Tuesday afternoon.

While fleeing down a street, the Iranian lobbed two bombs – one at a taxi, another at approaching policemen.

Four Thais were wounded and Morabi lost both his legs when the second bomb bounded back to him.

The Bangkok incident is seen by Israeli officials as one in a series of terrorist attacks planned by Iran against Israelis from Tbilisi to New Delhi to Bangkok. It also comes on the heels of the mid-January arrest in the Thai capital of a Swedish-Lebanese man with suspected links to Hezbollah.

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Police found a large cache of bomb-making materials in his rented shop house.

“When I look at the global picture, not just Bangkok, it’s going from bad to worse,” Rosenzweig said. “I don’t see a way out. These people just don’t care about human life.”

Bangkok is a major draw for post-army Israelis, tens of thousands of whom pass through the city before fanning out on trips across Southeast Asia.

Many of them stop by Bangkok’s five-story Chabad House, which is situated in the middle of the backpacker district.

Because of its high concentrations of foreigners, the area is seen as a target for terrorists.

In recent weeks security at the Chabad House has been heightened. Yet most Israeli travelers, said Rabbi Nehemia Wilhelm, a Lubavitcher from Jerusalem who runs the institution, remain stoic about the increased threat.

“People aren’t panicking,” Wilhelm said. “They’re more alert, sure, but it doesn’t seem like they’re canceling their trips.”

Yet some travelers are clearly irked by developments that indicate that the famously freewheeling capital of Buddhist Thailand, too, has come to be in the cross-hairs of Iranian-backed terrorists.

“We come all this way from the balagan [mess] in the Middle East,” said a young Israeli who is on his way to Thailand’s exotic south, and asked not to be identified to avoid causing further worry to his parents back home.

“Then here we are, having to watch out for bags and looking over our shoulders.”

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