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Samui bomb suspect cleared (UPDATED)

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Police had a suspect and a clear security camera image in the Samui car-bomb case – for one day. The so-called "Man in blue" seen in the footage has turned out to be an innocent Surat Thani resident.

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Wednesday morning update

'Man in blue' cleared

Manop Thip-Osod

Pol Maj Gen Somchai Nittayabowornkul, deputy commissioner of the Provincial Police Region 8 Bureau, said Tuesday "the man in the blue shirt" has been cleared of any involvement in Friday's bomb blast at the Central Festival Samui car park. The man was captured by security cameras and initially suspected to be the driver of the pickup truck.

Pol Maj Gen Somchai said the man, identified as Veera Phancharoen, 39, a resident of Surat Thani, reported to police on Monday night to say he had nothing to do with the bombing after his photo was distributed.

Mr Veera, 39, said he rode a motorcycle to the shopping mall at 11am for a coffee and then left. A relative who saw his photo advised him to meet police. Pol Maj Gen Somchai said police collected DNA samples from Mr Veera to compare with samples collected from the blast scene before releasing him.

Tuesday's story

Police hunt key suspect in Samui car bombing

Mall guards quizzed over southern links

Manop Thip-osod 

Supapong Chaolan

Surat Thani: Police are hunting a man captured in security camera footage who they believe is the driver of the pickup truck that exploded on Friday night in the Central Festival Samui car park.

Investigators are also searching for eight former shopping mall security guards who were dismissed or recently quit their jobs while four others still working at the mall have been detained by soldiers for questioning.

These four are all from the southernmost provinces, according to officials.

"A review of security footage strongly indicates police have got the car bomb driver on camera," said Pol Maj Gen Somchai Nittayabowornkul, deputy commissioner of the Provincial Police Region 8 Bureau.

The police are trying to identify the suspect who was wearing a blue shirt in the footage before asking a court to approve a warrant for his arrest.

Pol Maj Gen Somchai is confident police will be able to track the man down in a day or two and so far there is no information suggesting he left Koh Samui after the bomb blast.

Based on the footage, the man in question left the shopping mall an hour after arriving at the car park. He was last seen on camera outside the shopping mall hailing a taxi to leave the area.

Pol Maj Gen Somchai said police are also looking for eight former security guards for questioning in connection with the explosion. Some of them were sacked while the others had quit.

According to the deputy commissioner, all 15 security guards on duty on Friday night have been questioned while three other security guards were being held by the military as of Sunday.

Meanwhile, a security source said that the 4th Army Region had detained one other guard for questioning.

The source said the four, who hail from the deep South, were taken to the Samui naval base for questioning to determine whether the Friday blast could be linked to the southern insurgency.

Pol Maj Gen Somchai said police are not ruling out any possible motives at this stage and the focus of the investigation will be more clear when they have the suspected driver in custody.

Previous coverage

Forensic police look for evidence as to what type of bomb was used in the carpark blast. THANARAK KHUNTON

Sunday morning update

Here is the latest from our reporters:

Authorities are working on the theory that the Central Festival Samui bombing which injured seven people was the work of southern insurgents, but have not ruled out a connection to recent blasts in Bangkok.

Officials said the bombing in the popular resort island at the start of the Songkran holiday had similarities to attacks by insurgents in the deep South, which would be the focus of the investigations.

Security officials say there are no indications that the insurgents are widening their attacks to other areas of southern Thailand. But it remains a concern after authorities found that the Mazda pickup used in the Central Festival attack was stolen from Yala province.

The explosion on Samui island has put security authorities on full alert nationwide and precautions are being tightened for the Songkran festival.

The bomb was set off at 10.30pm on Friday in the car park of Central Festival Samui and injured seven people, including a 12-year-old Italian tourist, and damaged about 10 vehicles.

At almost the same time, a fire broke out at Surat Thani Co-operative in Punpin district, destroying a food court. There were no reports of injuries.

Officials have established no link between the car bomb and the blaze.

Metropolitan Police Bureau commissioner Lt Gen Sriwara Rangsiphramanakul said there was no likely link between the Samui blast and the recent explosions near Paragon shopping mall in Bangkok.

His comments conflicted with an earlier statement by government deputy spokesman Maj Gen Sansern Kaewkamnerd who said initial reports indicated the attack might be linked to the Bangkok explosions.

Saturday sfternoon update

An aerial view of the fire-damaged Surat Thani Co-operative in Phunphin district, Surat Thani province. PATTARAPONG CHATPATTARASILL

Surat Co-op fire put out

Firefighters have put out the fire at Surat Thani Co-operative in Phunphin district, Surat Thani province, Saturday morning. No one was injured and the damage was estimated at 50 million baht.

The fire broke out at its warehouse at about 11pm on Friday and then expanded to shops and a food centre. About 20 fire engines were mobilised and it took more than two hours to control the fire initially.

Sompong Duangsuwan, a guard volunteer at the cooperative, said he heard six explosions before seeing the fire quickly spreading through the cooperative's buildings. Cooking-gas cylinders in the food centre exploded when the firefighters were trying to extinguish the blaze.

Surat Thani army commander Maj Gen Kuakul Innajak said it was strange that the fire happened at about the same time as the car bomb on Koh Samui island of Surat Thani and another fire at Super Cheap convenience store in Takua Thung district of Phangnga province.

He commented that the incidents might involve national security and needed an in-depth investigation.

Mid-morning updates

National police chief Somyot Pumpunmuang talks to reporters this morning in Samui. POST TODAY

Local media this morning is reporting that National police chief Somyot Pumpunmuang confirmed from Surat Thani the explosion at the underground car park in the Central Festival shopping mall was very likely a car bomb. He said the vehicle had been reported missing from Thailand's deep South.

Channel 3 reports that the vehicle was actually a Mazda pickup and had been reported stolen ten days earlier in Yala province. Channel 3 said police are questioning the driver of the pickup who made the report and are apparently not completely convinced by his story. Post Today reports that police said the information he provided was not useful and he was late in reporting the theft, making it difficult for police to follow up.

The Samui mall has been closed for at least one day to allow the investigators to do their work and to check for structural damage.

As for the explosion and fire at the Surat Thani Co-op,  Surat Thani Governor Chatpong Chatput said it was too early to determine the cause and any connections to the Samui explosion. New TV said there has been much speculation that the motive was political because the Co-op was connected with Phra Suthep (Suthep Thuagsuban), a former leader in the Democrat party and a key member of the Abhisit government. Suspicious social media messages are being invesitigated, New TV said. Economic losses are likely to very high since the co-op was well-stocked for Songkran. Channel 3 reports witnesses as saying that there were multiple explosions before the fire. (11:15  TNN24 has just reported that the national police chief and local officials believe, initially at least, that the fire at the Co-op was probably an accident and unrelated to the car-bomb. 12:00 Thai PBS reports that other officials doubt that the Surat Thani fire was accidental.)

The fire in Phang Gna, meanwhile, was apparently caused by an electrical problem. Channel 3 reports convenience store staff as saying it started on the second floor after an electrical outage.

Remains of a vehicle destroyed by a car bomb at Central Festival shopping mall in Koh Samui. (Photo from Twitter user @Nouytnews)

Note: Early reports are almost always incomplete and details are not always accurate. I have updated the text of the story below, but not the audio.

Samui rocked by car bomb; two other fires reported in South

Post Today reports this morning that a car bomb exploded in an underground parking area at the Central Festival shopping mall on the popular Thai tourist island of Samui, injuring seven people, including a 12-year-old Italian girl.

"Six Thais and a 12-year-old girl were treated for minor injuries," said Poonsak Sophonsasmorong of the island's disaster prevention office.

Surat Thani Governor Chatpong Chatput said the car involved was a Honda Jazz (now reportered to be a Mazda pickup truck) with fake Chon Buri license plates. The car was completely destroyed and about 10 other vehicles were damaged.

The mall was still open at the time of the blast and Post Today reports shoppers fled in panic. The mall has been cleared and a police forensics team is on the scene.

At about the same time, there was what sounded like a second explosion in the same province at a co-operative in Tambol Nong Sai of Surat Thani's Punpin district. A food centre (and warehouse)  was said to be completely destroyed by the fire accompanying the blast. No injuries were reported there.

Earlier in the evening a fire broke out in (a convenience store) in the middle of a market in Takua Tung district of Phang Gna.

It is not clear if any, or all, of the incidents were related.

National police chief Somyot Pumpunmuang was reportedly on his way to Surat Thani to oversee the investigation.

Learn from listening

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accurate : correct, exact and without any mistakes - ถูกต้อง, แม่นยำ

advise : to tell somebody what you think they should do in a particular situation - แนะนำ, แจ้ง

aerial (adj): (of a photograph or video) from a plane or helicopter - ภาพถ่ายทางอากาศ

alert : prepared to deal with something dangerous - ตื่นตัว ระวัง

apparently : based only on what you have heard or think, not on what you are certain is true; seemingly - ตามที่ได้รู้มา

approve : to give official permission - อนุมัต

arrest : (of the police) taking someone under control (usually taking them to a police station) because they are believed to have committed a crime - การจับกุม

authority (noun): a person or government agency who has the power to make decisions or enforce the law - เจ้าหน้าที่ผู้มีอำนาจ

base : a place where an army, a navy, etc. operates from - ฐานทัพ, ฐานที่มั่น

blast : an explosion - การระเบิด

blaze : a fire - เพลิง

break out : (of something bad) to start - เริ่มต้นทันที

cause : the person or thing that makes something happen - สาเหตุ

co-operative : a business or farm owned and run by the people involved, with the profits shared by them - สมาคมสหกรณ์

commander : the head of an army or army unit - ผู้บังคับบัญชา

commissioner : the head of a particular police force in some countries - ผู้ตรวจการณ์

concern : a worry - ความกังวล

confident : certain; having trust in people, plans, or the future - มั่นใจ

conflict : not possible for two things to exist together or for two things to be true at the same time - ขัดแย้ง

connection : something that connects two facts, ideas, etc. - การเชื่อมต่อ การเชื่อมโยง

convenience store : a shop/store that sells food, newspapers, etc. and often stays open 24 hours a day - ร้านสะดวกซื้อ

convinced : certain; sure - แน่ใจ, มั่นใจ

courtesy : provided free by a person or an organisation -

custody : the state of being in prison or under police control, especially while waiting for trial - การกักขัง, การคุมขัง

cylinder : an object shaped like a wide tube; a metal container for gas or liquid - กระบอก

deputy : a person whose rank is immediately below that of the leader of an organisation - รอง

details : small facts or pieces of information relating to a situation - รายละเอียด

detained : kept in a place and not allowed to leave - กักตัว ควบคุมตัวหรือฝากขัง

determine : to discover something by examining evidence to or calculate something - กำหนด, ระบุ, แสดงผล

disaster : an unexpected event, such as a very bad accident, a flood or a fire, that kills a lot of people or causes a lot of damage - ภัยพิบัติ ความหายนะ

dismiss : to force someone to leave their job - ไล่ออกจากตำแหน่ง

doubt (verb): to think that something is probably not true, that it probably won't happen or that it probably does not exist - สงสัย

establish : to determine; to discover something by examining evidence to or calculate something - กำหนด, ระบุ, แสดงผล

estimated : thought to be a particular amount, size, etc. based on a guess or the best information available - ประมาณการ

evidence : facts statements or objects that help to prove whether or not someone has committed a crime - หลักฐาน

expand : to make or become larger - ขยาย

extinguish : to put out a fire - ดับไฟ

fake : made to look like something real in order to trick people - ปลอมแปลง

fled (past of flee) : escaped; left an area very quickly because of a danger there - หนีไป

focus : the thing or person that people are most interested in - จุดสนใจ, จุดสำคัญ, จุดหลัก

forensics : scientific methods used to solve crimes and find out who committed them - นิติวิทยาศาสตร์

hail : to signal to a taxi or a bus, in order to get the driver to stop - เรียก

identify : to specify who someone is - ระบุชื่อ

in question : that is being discussed - อันที่ คนที่ สิ่งที่กำลังพูดถึง

in-depth (adjective): thorough and detailed; going deeply into some issue or subject and looking at the details - ลึกซึ้ง

incidents : events which are either unpleasant or unusual - เหตุการณ์

indicate : to show - แสดง

indication : a sign that something happened, is true or exists - เครื่องบ่งชี้

initially : at first - ในเบื้องต้น

injure : to hurt or cause physical harm to a person or animal - ทำให้บาดเจ็บ, ทำร้าย

insurgency : an attempt by a group of people to take control of their country or the area where they live by force - การจลาจล

insurgent : someone who belongs to a group of people fighting to take control of their country or area by force - กลุ่มกบฏ

investigation : the process of trying to find out all the details or facts about something in order to discover who or what caused it or how it happened - การสอบสวน, การตรวจสอบหาข้อเท็จจริง

investigator : someone whose job is to officially find out the facts about something - ผู้สอบสวน, ผู้สำรวจ, ผู้ตรวจสอบ

key : very important - ที่สำคัญ

license plate : the metal plate on the front and back of a car and motorcycle that identifies it - ป้ายทะเบียนรถ

link : a connection - การเชื่อมต่อ

links : connections - ความเชื่อมโยงกัน

local : in or related to the area that you live, or to the particular area that you are talking about - ท้องถิ่น

meanwhile : at the same time - ในเวลาเดียวกัน

media : radio, television, newspaper, the Internet, considered as a group - สื่อ

metropolitan police : the police in responsible for a city - ตำรวจนครบาล

minor : not important; small; having little influence or effect - เล็กน้อย

mobilise : to bring together for a particular purpose - ระดมพล

motive : a reason for doing something - แรงจูงใจ

multiple : many - มากมาย

national security : the protection or the safety of a country’s secrets and its citizens - การรักษาความมั่นคงแห่ง่ชาติ

nationwide : throughout a whole country - ทั่วทั้งประเทศ

outage : power cut - ช่วงเวลาที่ไม่มีกระแสไฟฟ้า

oversee (verb): (past form: oversaw) to watch or organise a job or an activity to make certain that it is being done correctly - คุมงาน,ควบคุม

panic : a sudden strong feeling of fear or worry that causes you to be unable to think clearly or calmly - ความตื่นตกใจ

popular (adj): a situation in which someone or something is liked by many people - เป็นที่นิยม, เป็นที่ชื่นชอบ

precaution : an action taken to protect people or things against possible harm or trouble - การป้องกันไว้ก่อน

prevention : preventing something bad from happening - การป้องกันภ้ย

quiz (verb): to ask somebody a lot of questions about something in order to get information from them - ถาม, สอบถาม

related (adj): connected with something/somebody; referring to something/somebody - เชื่อมโยงกับ

relative : a member of your family - ญาติพี่น้อง

release : to allow someone to go free - ปล่อยตัว

reportedly : as reported (often used for showing that you are not certain that something you are reporting is true) - ตามที่รายงาน

reporter : someone whose job is to write articles or make broadcasts about events in the news - ผู้สื่อข่าว, นักข่าว

rock : to shock, surprise, or frighten someone - ทำให้ตกใจ, ทำให้สั่นสะเทือน

rule out : to stop considering something as a possibility - ประกาศว่าเป็นสิ่งที่เป็นไปไม่ได้

ruled out : stopped considering this as a possibility - ประกาศว่าเป็นสิ่งที่เป็นไปไม่ได้

sack : to remove someone from a job; to fire - ปลดออกจากตำแหน่ง

sample : a small amount of a substance that is used for scientific or medical tests - ตัวอย่างทดลอง

scene : site; a place where something happens or happened - สถานที่เกิดเหตุ

screen capture : a photo/picture taken from the screen of a computer -

security : protection; systems providing for safety from attack, harm, or damage - ระบบรักษาความปลอดภัย

security camera footage : video from a camera that is put in a place to constantly record what happens there - ภาพหรือหนังในเทปวิดีโอจากกล้องวงจรปิดเพื่อรักษาการความปลอดภัย

similarity : being like somebody/something but not exactly the same - ความคล้ายคลึง, ความเหมือน

social media : the use of web-based and mobile technologies to turn communication into an interactive dialogue, e.g., Facebook, Twitter, etc. - เครือข่ายสังคมออนไลน์

source : someone who gives information - แหล่งข่าว

speculation : ideas or discussion about what might happen or has happened or why something has happened without having complete information - การคาดการณ์

staff : workers employed by a person or organisation considered as a group - คณะผู้ทำงาน, คนงาน

stage : a particular point in time during a process or set of events - ระยะเวลา ช่วงเวลา

stock : to collect large amounts of things that may be needed - เก็บสะสมไว้ใน

structural (adjective): having to do with structures such as buildings, bridges and roads - เกี่ยวกับโครงสร้าง

suspect : a person who is thought to have committed a crime - ผู้ต้องสงสัย

suspicious : making you believe that something is wrong, dangerous or illegal - น่าสงสัย

theory : one or more ideas that explain how or why something happens - สมมติฐาน

track down (verb): to try to follow and find someone or something - ตามรอย

treat : to provide medical care - รักษา

unrelated (adj.): to not be connected with something - ไม่เชื่อมโยงกับ

volunteer (noun): someone who is not paid for the work that they do; someone who does something willingly without being required to - อาสาสมัคร

warehouse : a large building for storing things - โกดังสินค้า, คลังสินค้า, โรงพัสดุ

warrant (noun): a legal document that is signed by a judge and gives the police authority to do something - หมาย

widen : to become wider; to make something wider - ทำให้กว้าง, ทำให้ขยายออก, ทำให้ขยายกว้าง

witness : a person who sees something happen or knows about something - ผู้ที่เห็นเหตุการณ์, พยาน


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