BANGKOK (The Nation/ANN) - A second foreign suspect allegedly involved in the bombing of the Erawan Shrine was arrested yesterday by Thai authorities in Sa Kaew province, near Cambodian border .
Meanwhile, Min Buri Provincial Court issued warrants yesterday for three more suspects on the run.
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said the suspect arrested at the border, believed to be the yellow-shirted man caught on CCTV footage leaving a backpack with the bomb that killed 20 and injured more than 100 on August 17, had been flown to Bangkok for questioning.
"I can confirm that the suspect who looks like the person sought by authorities in connection with this controversial case was caught at Ban Pa Rai, in Sa Kaew province, after we set up a number of checkpoints [on the border with Cambodia]. But we have to prove his identity," he said.
"Fingerprints and other forms of proof are needed. We're also looking for [other] suspects who planted the bomb, the masterminds, and others," he said.
"We hope to get several suspects in this network after the first one was arrested [last Saturday]. Those arrested so far are neither Thai nor Chinese nationals. We have yet to confirm their nationalities," he said.
Prayut said if the latest suspect turned out to have been involved in the attack, it would be easier to connect pieces of the jigsaw in relation to other members of the network.
The government had also contacted the Turkish Embassy in Bangkok, which insisted that the suspect arrested at the weekend was not of Turkish nationality, the PM said.
At press time, police spokesman Pol General Prawut Thavornsiri declined to confirm whether the suspect arrested in Sa Kaew province was the person who planted the bomb at the Erawan Shrine. However, he said the suspect's appearance was quite similar to that of the individual in the police sketch.
"It is too early to say anything, as the suspect was only arrested and brought to Bangkok for questioning at about 4pm," he said.
The Army was now questioning the suspect, Prawut said, adding that witnesses would be asked if they could identify him.
The suspect had been charged with entering the Kingdom without permission, he said.
Maj-General Srisak Poonprasit, head of the Burapha Taskforce, said the second suspect had been spotted about 500 metres from the Thai-Cambodian border as he was travelling on an unusual route. He was carrying a backpack and wore a long-sleeved shirt, trousers, dark sunglasses and a cap.
The suspect was brought to Bangkok yesterday afternoon by Pol General Chakthip Chaijinda, the deputy national police chief.
Meanwhile, Min Buri Provincial Court issued warrants for another three suspects: Turkish national Ali Jorun, based on a sketch; Amed Bosonglan; and an unnamed Turkish national, also based on a sketch.
They are wanted for possession of explosive materials and believed to be connected with the shrine bombing, plus the subsequent blast under Sathorn Bridge. No one was hurt in the latter explosion.
Earlier yesterday, national police chief Pol General Somyot Poompanmuang ordered the immediate transfer of six senior police, including the chief of Sa Kaew Immigration, Pol Colonel Pairach Pukcharoen.
All six were told to report to the police force's inspector-general's office by 5pm yesterday. A source saidPrayut had directly instructed Somyot to slap transfer orders on these senior officers as security agencies had found they were involved in the smuggling of Uighurs, some of whom were reportedly related to the blast.
Many foreigners and Chinese were among the victims at the shrine.
Meanwhile, 16 police were transferred out of Nong Chok and Min Buri police stations, reportedly over their perceived failure to carefully inspect areas under their jurisdictions in the wake of the lethal explosion. The transfers included Nong Chok superintendent Pol Colonel Pornthep Sutipanya and Min Buri superintendent Pol Colonel Kanchon Intaram.
The two police stations had reported that there were no suspicious foreigners or bomb-making materials in their areas last month. However, special task-force teams of the National Council for Peace and Order recently uncovered bomb-making materials in the areas under the two stations' jurisdictions.
Somyot said yesterday he would issue more transfers if any other police were found to have been negligent or abetted wrongdoing.
Asked about the foreigner arrested at an apartment in Nong Chok on Saturday, Somyot said the suspect had been giving useful information.
"He has implicated his accomplices. But at this point, we can't disclose how many people were involved in the bomb plot," he said.
Somyot, meanwhile, said police did not know about the location of the Thai woman, Wanna Suansa, who is wanted in connection with the blast.
Wanna told Nation TV last night she rented rooms in Nong Chok about a year ago for her husband's friends, who had come to Thailand and planned to stay for several months. She said she will return soon with her eight-month-old son to prove her innocence, adding she is in contact with police to ensure her safety. Her husband cannot return due to work.