Thailand seeks support from US to find Bangkok bomber, raises reward
Thailand raised a reward Friday for tips leading to the arrest of the main suspect in Bangkok’s deadly bombing and turned to the United States for help in tracking down those behind the attack that left 20 people dead.
Prime Minister Prayuth Chanocha said he had received offers of assistance from the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok and had assigned his deputy “to cooperate on borrowing equipment that includes facialrecognition technology.”
Prayuth, however, ruled out working with U.S. investigators, insisting Thais can do the job.
“It won’t be necessary to cooperate on the investigation with U.S. officers,” Prayuth told reporters. “We need to help ourselves.”
Four days after the explosion at the revered Erawan Shrine, at one of the capital’s busiest intersections, there were few solid leads into the perpetrators of the attack that also left more than 120 injured.
Police were still searching Friday for the prime suspect seen in a security video dropping off a backpack near a bench at the site about 15 minutes before the blast, a day after clearing two other men seen in the video who were initially believed to be suspects.
National police chief Somyot Poompanmoung told reporters that police were looking for a woman wearing a black shirt who ap- peared in the footage, seated near the suspect. He noted she was not considered a suspect but could have valuable witness testimony, if police could find her.
“We don’t even know who she is,” Somyot said. When asked if any persons of interest would be called in Friday, he said, “No.”
After being criticized for sending confusing messages, authorities appeared more guarded in their statements. Military spokesman Col. Winthai Suvaree said on television that the police were making “much progress” but that he could not disclose any details.
Police have released a sketch of the suspect — depicting him with eyeglasses and bushy, black hair — and offered a reward that on Friday was raised to 3 million baht (US$85,000), Somyot said. On a police arrest warrant he is described as a “foreign man,” although a military spokesman said Thursday that a connection to international terrorism seemed unlikely.
Somyot had signaled the need for facial recognition technology to help speed the investigation.
“There are automatic machines that can detect 100 people within 5-6 seconds,” Somyot said Thursday. “Making people sit and do the job would take all day.”
The U.S. Embassy confirmed that it had offered to help Thai authorities but declined to give specifics, citing the ongoing investigation.
Doves are released for peace at the Erawan Shrine at Rajprasong intersection, the scene of Monday’s bombing, in Bangkok, Friday, Aug. 21.