Erawan shrine bomb­ing trial starts af­ter months of de­lays

The Myanmar Times - - World -

THE long-de­layed trial of two Uighur men ac­cused of bomb­ing a Bangkok shrine fi­nally kicked off yes­ter­day as a mil­i­tary court al­lowed Bei­jing to sup­ply trans­la­tors for the sus­pects de­spite their ob­jec­tions.

Yusufu Mieraili and Bi­lal Mo­hammed are ac­cused of plant­ing a bomb at the Erawan shrine in Bangkok’s com­mer­cial heart in Au­gust 2015 that left 20 dead, mostly eth­nic Chi­nese tourists.

The blast came weeks af­ter Thai­land’s junta forcibly repa­tri­ated 109 Uighurs to China, where rights ac­tivists say the Mus­lim mi­nor­ity faces cul­tural and reli­gious re­pres­sion.

The tim­ing prompted spec­u­la­tion that the at­tack was part of a re­venge plot against a coun­try which had been a key tran­sit hub for Uighurs as Thai­land’s mil­i­tary lead­ers have grown closer to Bei­jing.

Thai au­thor­i­ties have re­jected that the­ory say­ing the at­tack­ers were part of a peo­ple-smug­gling net­work an­gered by a re­cent crack­down, a mo­tive most an­a­lysts say is sim­ply not com­pelling.

The trial of the two men, who have been held in mil­i­tary prison for over a year, was de­layed sev­eral times as the court strug­gled to find a suit­able in­ter­preter and re­jected one pro­vided by the de­fence.

The hear­ing fi­nally started yes­ter­day af­ter judges ac­cepted two in­ter­preters pro­vided by the Chi­nese em­bassy and waved off ob­jec­tions from the de­fen­dants.

Uighurs, a Tur­kic mi­nor­ity, hail from China’s west­ern­most prov­ince, Xin­jiang.

The first wit­ness called by the pros­e­cu­tion yes­ter­day was a po­lice of­fi­cer who was among the ear­li­est to ar­rive on the scene af­ter the bomb tore through the shrine, scat­ter­ing de­bris and body parts.

Thai­land’s junta has been crit­i­cised for a murky in­ves­ti­ga­tion that ap­peared to wind down shortly af­ter the ar­rest of the two men, leav­ing more than a dozen named sus­pects – in­clud­ing al­leged mas­ter­minds –still at large.

The trial is ex­pected to last un­til early 2018 with the court only sit­ting for a few days each month. –

Photo: AFP

Photo: EPA

Bangkok bomb­ing sus­pects Bi­lal Mo­hammed (left) and Yusufu Mieraili.

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