BANGKOK: Turkey expressed skepticism Thursday over reports that its nationals were involved in the Aug. 17 bombing of a Bangkok landmark that killed 20 people, saying it had not received any official notification from Thailand. The Turkish Embassy said in a statement that it has not received confirmation from Thai authorities about the nationalities of the suspects. Thai authorities have suggested that at least two of the eight suspects are possibly Turkish. The Turkish connection has boosted a theory the suspects may be part of a group seeking to avenge Thailand's forced repatriation of ethnic Uighurs to China in July. Thailand is believed to be a transit stop for Chinese Uighurs attempting to go to Turkey. Uighurs (pronounced WEE-gurs) are related to Turks, and Turkey is home to a large Uighur community. The bombed site, the Erawan Shrine, is especially popular with Chinese tourists, feeding the speculation that it could have been targeted by people who believe the Uighurs are oppressed by China's government. China has alleged that among the Uighurs who were repatriated were some who intended to join Islamic State fighters in Syria. The bombing suspects include a Thai woman said to be married to a Turkish man. Both are being sought by Thai police. In interviews with Thai media, the woman said she was innocent. She also said she was living in Turkey. Thai authorities have been careful not to state publicly that the case may be linked to the Uighurs. They have said that such speculation could affect international relations and hurt tourism. "We have agreed already that I won't mention the name of a country, the name of a group or their religion. Please allow me to say that it is a network, and let's wait and see which group it is," Thai national police spokesman Prawut Thavornsiri said Thursday, when asked if the case was linked to Uighurs. Thai security officials have suggested the suspects are part of a human trafficking ring with a grudge against Thailand. However, Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, known for his outspokenness, has stretched the theory to acknowledge it could have been a gang involved in smuggling Uighurs out of China. The embassy statement quoted the Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman in Ankara pointing out the Thai press reports saying that the second suspect, detained Tuesday near the Thai-Cambodian border, had a Chinese passport. The first suspect, arrested in a raid on a Bangkok apartment, had a fake Turkish passport, the embassy said. While suggesting that Thai officials have been providing little or no response to Turkish diplomatic queries, the statement acknowledges that each country's embassy has been in touch with its host country's foreign officials. Thai officials have been evasive about the alleged Chinese passport, a photo of which was published by several Thai media outlets. It has a photo that closely resembles that of the arrested man, and carries the name of Mieraili Yusufu, 25 years old. His birthplace and the place of issue of the passport are listed as Xinjiang, the Uighur homeland.
Turkey skeptical Bangkok bomb suspects are Turks
Published: 03:38 pm Sep 03, 2015