Key Bangkok shrine bombing suspect arrested at border, says Thai PM

Authorities arrested a man on the Thai-Cambodian border who is accused of being a main plotter and organizer of the Aug. 17 terror attack on a Hindu shrine in Bangkok.

Sakchai Lalit/AP
Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha (c.) arrives at the government house in Bangkok, Thailand, on Tuesday. Thai authorities arrested a man they believe is part of a group responsible for a bombing at a shrine in central Bangkok two weeks ago, the prime minister announced Tuesday. He said the suspect resembles a yellow-shirted man in a surveillance video who police say planted the bomb.

Thai security officials have arrested a foreign man believed to be a prime suspect in the Aug. 17 bombing that killed 20 people at a Bangkok shrine, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha announced Tuesday.

General Prayut, the head of the country’s military government, said authorities arrested the man near the Thai-Cambodian border while he was attempting to flee the country.

But his arrest does not bring the hunt for other suspects to an end. The prime minister described the man as a central figure in an alleged network that carried out the devastating attack at the Erawan shrine in downtown Bangkok, but did not say the man planted the bomb. 

“We are looking for the bomber, the person who ordered it, and the person who used a phone,” Prayut said, according to The New York Times. “We have to arrest them all.”

Authorities arrested a 28-year-old foreign man Saturday on the outskirts of Bangkok but have yet to release his name, nationality, or suspected tie to the bombing network. The Associated Press reports that they found bomb-making materials in the raid.

On Monday, authorities issued arrest warrants for two more suspects, a Thai woman identified as Wanna Suansun and another foreign man. Thai police chief Somyot Pumpanmuang said the woman had contacted police and agreed to meet with them, reports Reuters.

While details of the attack remain vague, Reuters reports that security officials have been looking into a possible Turkish connection. Police said that Ms. Suansun’s family told them that she traveled to Turkey several months ago to work with her partner. The police said they found Turkish passports in the raid on Saturday.

As Reuters reports:

Speculation has centered on sympathizers of Uighur Muslims, opponents of the government, southern ethnic Malay rebels and foreign extremists, among other groups.

Thailand drew international outrage last month when it forcibly repatriated more than 100 Uighurs to China.

Sally Mairs reported Monday for The Christian Science Monitor that police have come to rely on a network of more than 100,000 motorcycle-taxi drivers for leads about the suspects.

These orange-vested speed demons are the city’s ultimate transportation equalizers, ferrying Thais of every type for the equivalent of little more than $10 a day. They are also inadvertent neighborhood lookouts, monitoring the city’s daily rhythms from their modest stands, which are often only a bench and a beach umbrella that provides refuge from the tropical sun …

One Thai investigator says the information collected from motorcycle drivers – along with ordinary taxi drivers and those piloting three-wheeled tuk-tuks – has been “very helpful” and “very consistent.” Motorbike taxi drivers are a unique resource for police, he adds, though he was not authorized to talk about the Erawan case.

The attack at Erawan shrine was the worst bombing in recent Thai history. Fourteen foreigners were among the 20 killed and more than 120 people injured in the blast.

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