Bangkok: A bomb on a motorcycle exploded on Monday just outside a Hindu shrine in the centre of the Thai capital, killing at least 16 people in an attack the government said was aimed at destroying the economy and the tourism industry.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blast just outside the Erawan shrine at a major intersection.
At least two bombs were found at the scene, said Maj. Gen. Weerachon Sukhondhapatipak, a spokesman for Thailand's ruling junta. He said at least one had detonated.
Thai forces are fighting a low-level Muslim insurgency in the predominantly Buddhist country's south, but those rebels have rarely launched attacks outside their ethnic Malay heartland.
"The perpetrators intended to destroy the economy and tourism because the incident occurred in the heart of the tourism district," Defense Minister Prawit Wongsuwan told Reuters.
The government would set up a "war room" to coordinate the response to the blast, the Nation television channel quoted Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha as saying.
Police said the bomb had killed 16 people and wounded 81, many of whom were taken to the nearby police hospital.
After the blast, authorities stepped up security checks at some major city intersections and in tourist areas.
While initial suspicion might fall on Muslim separatists in the south, Thailand has been riven for a decade by an intense and sometimes violent struggle for power between political factions in Bangkok.
Occasional small blasts have been blamed on one side or the other. Two pipe bombs exploded outside a luxury shopping mall in the same area in February, but caused little damage.
Police said that attack was aimed at raising tension when the city was under martial law.
The shrine intersection was the site of months of anti-government protests in 2010 by supporters of ousted former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. Dozens were killed in a military crackdown and a shopping centre was set ablaze.