‘Main suspect’ arrested at Thai-Cambodia checkpoint

Bangkok, September 1

Thailand’s prime minister said a foreigner believed to be the “main suspect” in the Bangkok bombing was arrested today at a checkpoint on the Cambodian border, the second foreigner to be detained.

The August 17 blast tore through a religious shrine in central Bangkok and killed 20 people, mostly ethnic Chinese tourists.

Prayut Chan-O-Cha, who also heads the nation’s junta, was asked by reporters to comment on rumours another person had been detained.

“It’s true. He has been arrested at Sa Kaeo checkpoint,” Prayut said, referring to the Thai side of a border crossing with Cambodia.

Asked whether he is thought to be the person who planted the bomb at the Erawan shrine in Bangkok’s busy Chidlom shopping district, he replied, “We are interrogating. He is the main suspect and a foreigner.”

The “important” suspect was arrested “early this morning” he said, adding he was “probably running away”.

The checkpoint is located at a bustling and seedy border town which is a transit route for smuggled goods between the two countries.

The hunt for the perpetrators of the bomb blast has been characterised by confusing and at times contradictory statements from police and junta officials. But the tempo of the investigation has increased since the weekend when the first arrest was made.

The foreigner was detained on Saturday at a flat in a Bangkok suburb, allegedly in possession of bomb-making paraphernalia and dozens of fake Turkish passports. He is in military custody but has not been publicly identified.

Police have speculated that the attack was in retaliation for a crackdown on a major people-smuggling network. But analysts say crime alone was unlikely to be the motivating factor behind a bomb that brought such carnage.

A junta spokeswoman said in a broadcast the ongoing interrogation of the foreigner detained on Saturday had led to “the apprehension of additional suspects”.

The broadcast was made before the announcement by Prayut.

Arrest warrants have been issued for several people, including three unnamed males. The only named warrant is for a 26-year-old Thai Muslim woman called Wanna Suansan. Police say she rented a separate flat also in the city suburbs where bomb-making equipment was also found.

They issued a sketch yesterday of an unknown male suspect believed to have rented the flat.

Thai authorities confirmed today that Wanna was overseas but refused to say in which country.

Late Monday AFP tracked down her number and a woman answering that name took the phone call, saying she was living in the Turkish city of Kayseri with her husband whose nationality she did not state.

The number was for a Turkish mobile phone.

In a phone interview Wanna denied involvement in the blast, saying she had not visited the flat where the bomb-making equipment was found for around a year. Instead, she said it had been rented to a friend of her husband.