Turk­ish man charged in Thai­land over Bangkok bomb­ing

Mizzima Business Weekly - - AFFAIRS // NEWS -

Thai author­i­ties on Au­gust 29 de­tained and charged a 28-year-old Turk­ish man over a bomb at­tack in Bangkok last week that killed 20 peo­ple and wounded scores more.

It is the first ar­rest in con­nec­tion with the 17 Au­gust bomb­ing at the Erawan shrine in the cap­i­tal’s bustling down­town dis­trict, which killed mostly Asian visi­tors, in Thai­land’s worst sin­gle mass­ca­su­alty at­tack.

Around 100 po­lice and mil­i­tary of­fi­cers -- in­clud­ing at least a dozen bomb dis­posal spe­cial­ists -- gath­ered out­side an apart­ment block in Nong Chok dis­trict on the eastern out­skirts of Bangkok where the man was ar­rested in pos­ses­sion of bomb-mak­ing equip­ment and mul­ti­ple pass­ports.

“We be­lieve that the sus­pect was in­volved with the bomb­ing” at the shrine, na­tional po­lice spokesman Prawut Tha­vorn­siri said on a live tele­vised broad­cast Au­gust 29 evening.

He also said that the man was in­volved with a blast the day af­ter the shrine bomb­ing near a pop­u­lar tourist pier which sent peo­ple scur­ry­ing but caused no in­juries.

The 28-year-old has been charged with the “illegal pos­ses­sion of bomb-mak­ing ma­te­ri­als such as ball bear­ings” and “pipes to use as a bomb con­tainer”, Prawut said.

Colonel Ban­phot Phun­phien, spokesman of Thai­land’s In­ter­nal Se­cu­rity Oper­a­tions Com­mand (ISOC), told AFP the man was a “Turk­ish na­tional”.

For days Thai po­lice have been search­ing for a prime sus­pect, de­scribed as a for­eign man, who was cap­tured on se­cu­rity footage wear­ing a yel­low t-shirt and leav­ing a bag at the shrine mo­ments be­fore the blast on se­cu­rity cam­eras.

But author­i­ties have not yet linked the sus­pect now de­tained in mil­i­tary cus­tody with the man seen on this video footage.

“We found dozens of pass­ports in­side his room, we have to check which na­tion­al­i­ties they be­long to,” he said on the tele­vised broad­cast.

In ear­lier com­ments on Thai broad­caster Chan­nel 3, Prawut said the “clothes and bomb-mak­ing ma­te­ri­als” found in the ac­cused’s room were linked to both re­cent blasts.

“The ball bear­ing is the same size” as those found at the two blast sites, he said.

- Mul­ti­ple the­o­ries -

The at­tack on the Hindu shrine in Bangkok last week has left the vi­brant city rat­tled and dealt a fresh blow to the king­dom’s rep­u­ta­tion as a wel­com­ing and safe travel des­ti­na­tion.

The ma­jor­ity of those killed were eth­nic Chi­nese wor­ship­pers from across Asia, who flocked to the shrine in the belief that prayers there bring good for­tune.

In­ves­ti­ga­tors have said the at­tack was clearly aimed at dam­ag­ing the tourism in­dus­try but in­sist that Chi­nese tourists -- who visit Thai­land in larger num­bers than any other na­tion­al­ity -- were not sin­gled out.

Ear­lier this week Thai po­lice said they were not ready to ex­clude any pos­si­bil­ity about who was be­hind the at­tack.

But spec­u­la­tion had grown over China’s eth­nic Uighur Mus­lim mi­nor­ity -- or their co-re­li­gious sym­pa­this­ers -- be­ing be­hind the at­tack, mo­ti­vated by Thai­land’s forced repa­tri­a­tion of more than 100 Uighur refugees last month to an un­cer­tain fate in China.

Bangkok’s con­sulate in Is­tan­bul was stormed by an­gry protesters af­ter the forced repa­tri­a­tion.

On Fri­day po­lice said three Uighur Mus­lims, among dozens de­tained in the king­dom for illegal en­try last year, had been ques­tioned in eastern Sa Kaeo province, bor­der­ing Cam­bo­dia, over the bomb­ing but pro­vided no fur­ther de­tails.

Ear­lier this week re­gional se­cu­rity an­a­lyst An­thony Davis from IHS-Jane’s said a po­ten­tial per­pe­tra­tor could be peo­ple from or af­fi­lated to the ex­treme right-wing Pan-Tur­kic move­ment known as the Grey Wolves, who have latched onto the Uighur cause in re­cent years.

In com­ments dur­ing a dis­cus­sion on the blast at the For­eign Cor­re­spon­dents’ Club of Thai­land (FCCT) Davis said the group had close links with Turk­ish or­gan­ised crime, who are known to have a pres­ence in Bangkok, and were at the fore­front of the at­tack on the Thai con­sulate in Is­tan­bul.

His re­marks were widely car­ried in the Thai press but po­lice re­fused to state whether they be­lieved the per­pe­tra­tors had a Turk­ish con­nec­tion.

Other po­ten­tial per­pe­tra­tors named by the po­lice and ex­perts have in­cluded 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.


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