Police are widening the hunt for the Bangkok bomber as a man arrested in connection with the attack on the Erawan shrine refuses to cooperate with police. The 28-year-old foreign national was arrested yesterday (29 August) and charged with possession of illegal explosives. Authorities say they found multiple fake passports and bomb-making materials, including detonators and a metal pipe with lids during the raid on the city's outskirts.
The attack on 17 August at the Hindu Erawan shrine in Bangkok that killed 20 people and left more than 120 others injured could have been carried out by a people-smuggling gang in retaliation to a crackdown on the trade. Authorities believe the man is part of an organised crime group that sells fake documents to illegal immigrants.
"They [the gang] are unsatisfied with police arresting illegal entrants," national police spokesman Prawut Thavornsiri told Thailand's Channel 3. "He [the suspect] had more than 200 fake passports [when he was arrested]. It's a network that fakes nationalities and sends them [illegal migrants] on to third countries," he added without revealing the source of the information.
Suspect possibly Turkish
The man's name and nationality has not yet been revealed, but he is a "Turkish national" according to Internal Security Operations Command (ISOC) spokesman Colonel Banphot Phunphien. Neighbours said the man lived with another foreigner and described him as a reclusive and secretive Muslim who rarely ventured outside and local mosque-goers say they have never seen him.
"The interrogation is not making progress because the suspect is not really giving useful information," Thai army chief General Udomdej Sitabutr said. "We have to conduct further interrogations and make him better understand so he will be more cooperative — while we have to be careful not to violate the suspect's rights."
Police have not yet said if the unidentified man is the prime suspect, who was captured on CCTV footage wearing a yellow T-shirt and dropping a rucksack off at the scene of the blast just minutes earlier. Speaking on national television today (30 August) the country's national deputy police chief, Chaktip Chaijinder, said that police are actively searching for more suspects. No group has yet claimed responsibility for the blast.
Police say the man has been in Thailand for more than 18 months, raising further questions as to why a suspect would remain in the country surrounded by incriminating evidence for nearly two weeks. Authorities are monitoring around 1,000 mobile phone numbers and checking photographs used in the seized passports in a bid to track down more members of the group.