Thai po­lice urge pa­tience as lack of equip­ment ham­pers blast probe


Author­i­ties Sun­day urged pa­tience in their hunt for the Bangkok shrine bomber, as the po­lice chief ad­mit­ted Thai­land lacks some of the “mod­ern equip­ment” to find the prime sus­pect cap­tured on se­cu­rity cam­eras.

Anx­i­ety is mount­ing six days af­ter the at­tack, which killed 20 peo­ple in the cap­i­tal’s com­mer­cial heart, with the bomber still on the run.

The hunt has so far fo­cused on a sus­pect in a yel­low T-shirt seen on CCTV plac­ing a ruck­sack un­der a bench at the Erawan shrine min­utes be­fore the blast.

A sketch of the man has been widely cir­cu­lated and a bounty of more than US$300,000 has been of­fered for his ar­rest.

He is de­scribed on his ar­rest war­rant as “for­eign” but po­lice have since said he could in fact be Thai or of mixed race.

Un­ver­i­fied footage, time-stamped just a few min­utes af­ter Mon­day’s blast, shows a sec­ond man in a blue T-shirt kick­ing a pack­age into wa­ter near a bridge in the same spot where a de­vice ex­ploded on Tues­day with­out in­juries.

But po­lice have not pub­licly linked the two blasts de­spite pres­sure to re­veal more.

“The slow­ness of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion is not be­cause the po­lice lack ca­pac- ity,” na­tional po­lice chief Somyot Poom­pan­moungyot told re­porters.

“But it’s be­cause we don’t have the mod­ern equip­ment that sup­ports the work.”

He did not re­veal the equip­ment the po­lice need but it is likely to be fa­cial recog­ni­tion tech­nol­ogy or pro­grams to en­hance se­cu­rity cam­era footage.

Ear­lier in the week junta chief Prayuth Chan-ocha bris­tled at sug­ges­tions his gov­ern­ment should seek over­seas help in a com­pli­cated in­quiry, with sev­eral na­tions of­fer­ing their ex­per­tise.

It is not clear if any of­fers have since been of­fi­cially ac­cepted.

De­spite their tech­ni­cal lim­i­ta­tions, po­lice say the in­ves­ti­ga­tion is pro­gress­ing but they ac­cept that the main sus­pect could have left the coun­try.

“We can­not give de­tails of that progress ... let the po­lice work,” po­lice spokesman Prawut Tha­vorn­siri said.

“We are work­ing around the clock. ... but this kind of a case is not easy.”

The shrine bomb killed mostly eth­nic Chi­nese tourists from across Asia. More than 50 peo­ple re­main in hos­pi­tal.

With no one claim­ing re­spon­si­bil­ity, ru­mors and spec­u­la­tion have swirled in Thai­land over the coun­try’s worst sin­gle mass-ca­su­alty at­tack in liv­ing mem­ory.

Two peo­ple have been ar­rested for spread­ing ru­mors and hoaxes over so­cial media, a junta spokesman said Sun­day.

The po­ten­tial per­pe­tra­tors named by po­lice and ex­perts alike in­clude in­ter­na­tional ji­hadists, mem­bers of Thai­land’s south­ern Malay-Mus­lim in­sur­gency, mil­i­tants on both sides of Thai­land’s fes­ter­ing po­lit­i­cal di­vide or even some­one with a per­sonal grudge.

Po­lice chief Somyot said a net­work of at least 10 peo­ple were be­hind the at­tack, which was likely planned at least one month in ad­vance.

But no ar­rests have been made over the bomb­ing and the in­for­ma­tion flow has slowed.

To fill the gap, lo­cal and in­ter­na­tional media have done their own sleuthing, re­port­ing on pos­si­ble leads and sus­pects, even pub­lish­ing the name of the man re­port­edly at the cen­ter of the po­lice probe — although Prawut has told AFP that name is in­cor­rect.

Mon­day’s bomb came dur­ing a time of height­ened con­cerns about the king­dom’s fu­ture, with few signs of a break­through in a decade-long po­lit­i­cal cri­sis.

The blast ex­poses the rul­ing junta, which ousted an elected gov­ern­ment in May last year, to crit­i­cism that it can­not guar­an­tee se­cu­rity.

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