Thai court issues warrant for suspect in second bomb blast

AP News
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Posted: Aug 27, 2015 10:45 AM
Thai court issues warrant for suspect in second bomb blast

BANGKOK (AP) — A Thai court on Thursday issued an arrest warrant for an unnamed suspect in a riverside blast that occurred a day after the bombing of a shrine in central Bangkok which killed 20 people.

Police spokesman Prawut Thawornsiri said the suspect appeared in a security video that shows a blurry image of an unidentified man in a blue shirt kicking a bag into the water near a busy pier on the night of Aug. 17, soon after the explosion at the Erawan Shrine.

An explosion took place near the spot about 18 hours later on Aug. 18, but caused no casualties.

The blast at the Erawan Shrine was unprecedented in the Thai capital, where smaller bombs have been employed in domestic political violence over the past decade, but not in an effort to cause large-scale casualties.

Police have not determined a clear motive for the shrine bombing, which injured more than 120 people in addition to the 20 fatalities. Possible suspects include Muslim separatists from southern Thailand, parties seeking to avenge the forced repatriation of ethnic Uighurs to China by the Thai government, opponents of Thailand's military government and feuding factions within the security services.

The warrant issued Thursday by the South Bangkok Criminal Court says the suspect in the river blast faces charges of attempted premeditated murder, exploding a bomb that could cause harm and unauthorized possession of explosives, Prawut said. It does not specify the suspect's name or nationality, but describes him as having white skin, a pointed nose and short hair, and being about 170 centimeters (5 foot, 7 inches) tall and weighing about 65 kilograms (143 pounds).

Police have not definitively linked the two blasts according to their public statements. They have said a network of people must have been involved in the shrine bombing. An arrest warrant was issued last week for a suspect in that explosion, also without a name or nationality. No arrests have been made in either case.

Criticism of the police investigation has been strong because few facts have been clearly established, including the type of explosives used in the bombs. Authorities have been accused of rapidly hosing down the crime scene at the shrine before all forensic evidence was recovered so it could be reopened to reassure the public — especially foreign tourists — that security in the city was back to normal.

The shrine is a popular tourist destination, particularly with Chinese visitors, who represent an important segment of the lucrative tourist market. At least six of the dead were from China and Hong Kong.

Police say they have been handicapped by low-quality and broken surveillance cameras and a lack of sophisticated image processing equipment to enhance the video they do have. They have interviewed taxi drivers who claim to have driven the suspects, and say they are also combing through phone records.

They acknowledge that they have few clues to go on so far and that the bombers may have fled the country.

"I have to say we need some luck," national police chief Somyot Poompanmoung told reporters Sunday. "If the police have good fortune, we might be able to make an arrest, but ... if the perpetrators have good fortune maybe they can get away."