Thailand hunts bombing suspect
Thai authorities said Tuesday they were hunting a man shown on security footage strolling into a packed religious shrine wearing a bright yellow T-shirt and placing a bomb-laden backpack, before an explosion that killed at least 20 people.
The attack occurred on Monday in one of the Thai capital’s most popular tourism hubs, ripping through a crowd of worshippers at the Hindu shrine close to five-star hotels and upscale shopping malls.
At least 11 of the victims were foreigners, with mainland Chinese, Hong Kong, Singaporean, Indonesian and Malaysian citizens among the 20 confirmed killed, police said.
More than 100 other people were injured as the blast left body parts, shattered class and incinerated motorcycles strewn across the crushed concrete of a busy intersection.
Junta chief Prayuth Chan-ocha on Tuesday branded the bombing the “worst-ever attack” on Thailand, as he said the hunt was on for the bomber filmed on closed circuit television at the shrine.
Police released images showing the man, who appeared young and slightly built, and wearing a yellow T-shirt and dark shorts, walking into the shrine with a backpack.
He sits down and places the backpack underneath a bench, then walks away from the shrine clutching a blue plastic bag while reading what appears to be a smartphone.
National police spokesman Prawut Thavorn said the man left the scene aboard a motorcycle taxi, which are common in Bangkok, and the blast occurred three minutes later.
“It is quite clear that he is the perpetrator in this case,” Thavorn told local television station Channel 3, adding police were also trying to track down the motorcycle taxi driver.
But Thavorn and other security chiefs did not reveal if they had any motives for the attack.
Bangkok has endured a decade of deadly political violence amid a power struggle between the military, backed by the middle class and elite, and the poor led by populist politician Thaksin Shinawatra.
He is living in self-imposed exile after being ousted as premier in 2006. The junta has ruled the nation since May last year after toppling the elected government of Thaksin’s sister, Yingluck.
Bangkok’s power struggle has seen repeated rounds of deadly street protests and bombings for nearly a decade.
More than 90 people were killed in 2010 during clashes between security forces and Thaksin supporters — many in the same area as Monday’s bomb.
But the anti-junta groups have never conducted such a large attack, nor one that was apparently aimed at a tourist zone.
And with no-one claiming responsibility for Monday’s assault, political and security experts said there was no obvious culprit.
Zachary Abuza, an independent expert on Thai security, told AFP he doubted it was in the interests of the anti-junta groups to carry out such an attack.
“Even if they are hell-bent on bringing down the government I just can’t see them targeting a Hindu or any other religious shrine,” Zachary Abuza, an independent expert on Thai security, told AFP.
“That would really alienate many of their supporters.”
Muslim rebels from the country’s far south have also waged a separatist insurgency for more than a decade that has claimed thousands of lives, mostly civilians.
This Monday, Aug. 17 image, released by Royal Thai Police spokesman Lt. Gen. Prawut Thavornsiri shows a man wearing a yellow T-shirt near the Erawan Shrine before an explosion occurred in Bangkok, Thailand.