Thailand police say a man arrested in connection with the deadly Erawan shrine bombing on August 17 which killed 20 people and saw more than 130 others seek medical treatment is being uncooperative, while Turkish embassy officials in Bangkok say the man is not a Turkish citizen.
Arrested on Saturday at an apartment block in the outer Bangkok suburb of Nong Chok following an early morning raid by a combined force comprising Royal Thai Army (RTA) and Royal Thai Police (RTP), the man, believed to be 28-years-old, is reported to be refusing to cooperate with military and police investigators.
Detained under martial law at the Infantry Battalion of the 11th Army Circle in Bangkok where he is being questioned by military and police investigators, Thai army chief General Udomdej Sitabutr said Sunday “the interrogation is not making progress because the suspect is not really giving useful information.
“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,” he added.
According to Thai police the Bangkok bomb suspect rented four rooms on the fourth floor of the apartment complex in June, though local media reports say he has been in Thailand since early this year.
Found with more than 200 fake passports at the time of his arrest, Thailand police spokesperson Lieutenant-General Prawut Thavornsiri said on Sunday the Bangkok bomb suspect is also part of an organised human-trafficking gang who helped illegal migrants obtain counterfeit documents so that they could migrate to other countries.
Since the deadly bombing two weeks ago speculation behind who was responsible has ranged from an attack aimed at damaging Thailand’s valuable tourism sector – of the 20 people killed 14 were foreigners including seven from mainland China and Hong Kong – to southern ethnic Malay insurgents, opponents of the military government, foreign militant groups and sympathisers of Uighur Muslims. Last month Thailand forcibly repatriated more than 100 Uighurs to China
No group has claimed responsibility for the blast.
Bangkok has long had a reputation being home to transnational gangs that produce counterfeit documents – two passengers with fake passports obtained in Thailand were on board Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 which vanished on March 8, 2014 – while investigations are still ongoing into a massive people smuggling network which saw more than 50 traffickers camps and mass graves discovered May.
On Sunday Thai authorities raided several properties in Bangkok allegedly finding more bomb making materials leading Lieutenant-General Thavornsiri to speculate that the group the Bangkok bomb suspect belonged to planned more bombings in Bangkok.
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He has spent extensive periods of time working in Africa and throughout Southeast Asia.
He has covered major world events including the 1991 pillage riots in Zaire, the 1994 Rwanda genocide, the 1999 East Timor independence unrest, the 2004 Asian tsunami, and the 2009, 2010 and 2014 Bangkok political protests.
In 1995 he was a Walkley Award finalist, the highest awards in Australian journalism, for his coverage of the 1995 Zaire (now Democratic Republic of Congo) Ebola outbreak.
Prior to AEC News Today he was the deputy editor and Thailand and Greater Mekong Sub-region editor for The Establishment Post, predecessor of Asean Today.