Thai police have on Wednesday issued an arrest warrant for the foreign-looking prime suspect behind the deadly bomb blast at Bangkok’s Erawan Shrine Monday night.
At least 22 people, including 11 foreign tourists, were killed in the unprecedented attack and more than 120 injured. As of Wednesday afternoon, 68 people, including many Chinese nationals, remained in critical condition.
Police on Wednesday also offered a reward of one million Baht for information helping them capture the suspect and released a sketch showing a young man wearing dark-framed glasses and with mid-length, dark curly hair – which police concede may have been a wig.
The foreign-looking man was seen in CCTV footage from the Hindu shrine at Bangkok’s Ratchaprasong intersection shortly before the bomb detonated. In the footage, the man is seen entering the shrine compound about 15 minutes before the blast, when it is packed with worshipers and mostly Asian tourists.
After taking seat on a bench for some seconds and dumping a heavy black backpack, he is seen leaving the scene – without the backpack – while using a smartphone which police suspect was used to ignite the bomb.
The national police chief has been quoted as saying:
The investigation has clearly established that the man in the CCTV is the perpetrator.
While the possibility that the suspect in the yellow shirt is a “Thai in disguise” has not been completely ruled out, police have issued the warrant for a man of “Caucasian, Arab or mixed race”, aged 20 to 30, and 180-185 cm tall.
This theory is supported by a motorcycle taxi driver who picked up a man matching the description of the suspect at a taxi stand near the Hindu shrine minutes after the bomb exploded.
The Bangkok Post quotes the New York Times as reporting:
The driver, who gave his name as Kasem, said the man did not speak to him, just walked up and handed him a piece of paper with the words “Lumpini Park” written on it in English. (…)
“He had a conversation on the phone,” Kasem said. “I don’t know what the language is. I don’t know, but it is surely not Thai nor English language.”
A tuk-tuk driver who picked up the suspect “from a location halfway between the Hua Lamphong Railway Station and Chulalongkorn University” and dropped him off near the blast scene less than 20 minutes before the deadly explosion, apparently did not talk to his passenger either. Khaosod English:
According to police, [the tuktuk driver] said the suspect showed him a map pointing to the location of Grand Hyatt Erawan, so he brought the man to the hotel, collected the fare, and drove away.
Here’s an artist’s impression of the suspect as seen in CCTV footage:
Police also assume that the suspect was part of a larger network or at least had the help of Thai accomplices. A police spokesman has been quoted as saying by Reuters:
We are also looking for other suspects in connection with the blast. These types of attacks are not usually planned by one person alone.
Khaosod English quotes the national police chief as saying:
I believe there is more than one perpetrator. It has to be a network. Foreigners couldn’t commit this act alone. There has to be Thai people, who are not Thais at heart, lending assistance to the crime.
Later on Wednesday, police said they had identified two more suspects or “persons of interest” seen on low-quality CCTV footage from the blast scene minutes before the explosion.
The two Asian-looking men, one wearing a red T-shirt and the other one a white shirt, were seen standing close to the “yellow shirt” key suspect, apparently shielding him from the view of the crowd, as he dumped the suspicious backpack under a bench. Police were also looking for a woman that seemed to accompany the two men.
Police later conceded, however, that the men were unlikely accomplices of the key suspect. After examining further CCTV footage that shows the pair walking down a nearby road in the moment of the powerful blast minutes later, police said the men were “apparently spooked by the explosion sound and jumped to seek cover.”
The Bangkok Post:
Apart from being shocked, both men also reacted “girlishly”, detectives said on condition of anonymity, adding that their reaction would indicate they had nothing to do with the bombing.
Earlier on Wednesday, a young Australian model and actor, who lives, works and teaches English in Bangkok, saw himself forced to report to police after social media users had falsely accused him of being the man seen in CCTV footage shortly before the blast. He was released after six hours of questioning.
Another unidentified foreigner, reportedly also with dark curly hair, was also briefly detained and questioned at Suvarnabhumi Airport on Tuesday.
If you think you’ve seen the suspect or have any other useful information that could lead to the man’s arrest please call 191 or, in Pattaya, 038 223 774.