Thai­land hunts bomb­ing sus­pect

The China Post - - FRONT PAGE - BY ANUSAK KONGLANG AND BOON­RADOM CHI­TRADON

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.

AP

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.

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