Bomb pair in Cambodia, say police

Bomb pair in Cambodia, say police

PM says gang may have Uighur trafficking links

National police chief Pol Gen Somyot Poompunmuang shows bundles of cash totalling three million baht which he is paying to police detectives as a
National police chief Pol Gen Somyot Poompunmuang shows bundles of cash totalling three million baht which he is paying to police detectives as a "reward" for arresting a bomb suspect last Saturday. Inset photos show wanted persons Wanna Suansan, 26, of Phang-nga and an unidentified "foreigner in his 40s". (Photos courtesy of the Royal Thai Police)

Police believe the two prime bombing suspects in the Erawan and Sathon pier explosions are hiding in Cambodia and have asked Phnom Penh authorities to hunt them down, a Crime Suppression Division (CSD) source said Monday.

Meanwhile, a reporter on Monday night spoke with the most-wanted Thai Muslim woman, who said she has been in Turkey for the past three months and was "shocked" to be accused of the crime on national Thai TV.

A woman who said she is Wanna Suansan, 26, of Phang-nga, with the Muslim name Maisaroh, told a reporter said she had already spoken with police via telephone. Later, she said officers from Bangkok had called her back to tell her not to speak to the media.

A police source said that checks of the woman's travel records found that she left for Dubai on July 1.

Authorities told the Bangkok Post they had spoken to "a relative" of Ms Wanna, who said she is in Turkey and she would be willing to return to Thailand to meet with officers.

In a third, confusing development, police also told the Bangkok Post they are not actually convinced Ms Wanna had left Thailand. They said witnesses told them they had seen her and the man from the identikit sketch were seen at the Min Buri apartment between Aug 10-20. The Erawan bomb blast was on Aug 17.

Also on Monday, the prime minister admitted that the network involved in the bombings could be linked to human trafficking rings smuggling Uighurs.

A police source said Monday that CSD chief Akkaradej Pimonsri has instructed his deputy, Pol Col Itthipol Atchariyapradit, to ask Cambodian authorities to track down the world's two most-wanted men.

That move came after checks by the Immigration Bureau found the pair entered the Cambodian town of Poipet through the Aranyaprathet border checkpoint in Sa Kaeo. The source said that, "Police expect to arrest them shortly".

Based on CCTV footage, one suspect is the man in the yellow T-shirt who allegedly planted the bomb at the Erawan shrine.

The other suspect is a man in a blue shirt who dropped a plastic bag with a suspected explosive device from a footbridge across Sathon canal on Aug 17. 

The two are among four suspects wanted on arrest warrants.

The Min Buri court approved a police request on Monday for arrest warrants for two more suspects - Ms Wanna, described officially as a Thai woman from Phang-nga, and a man of unknown nationality.

Police spokesman Prawut Thawornsiri said the warrant named Wanna Suansan, who rented a room at Maimuna Garden Home, an apartment building in Bangkok's Min Buri district. The woman also goes by the Muslim name "Maisaroh".

The second arrest warrant is for an unidentified man who shared the room, police said.

A combined police and military force searched the room on Saturday night and confiscated several items used to make bombs.

They included urea-based fertiliser, bottles of flash powder, a radio-controlled vehicle, bolts, decorative lights that could be used as a detonator, and four wristwatches.

A police source said that checks of the woman's travel records found that she left for Dubai on July 1.

Authorities spoke to a relative who said she is now in Turkey and she would be willing to return to Thailand to meet with officers.

Police, however, are not convinced she has left the country as witnesses at the apartment said Ms Wanna and the man from the identikit sketch were seen at the apartment between Aug 10-20.

Police also discovered that Ms Wanna has a Turkish husband, said the source.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said the foreign suspect arrested on Saturday might be linked with human trafficking rings smuggling Uighurs.

Some groups could benefit from Uighurs seeking to flee China by making them fake passports, Gen Prayut said.

Gen Prayut also stressed the need for investigators to find out where the suspect bought the bomb-making materials. "The priority is that we must stop perpetrators from being able to obtain bomb-making components in this country," he said.

The prime minister said rental apartments and hotels must carry out stringent background checks when people check in.

Despite only one arrest and no confirmation that he was one of the bombers, national police chief Somyot Poompunmuang awarded a 3-million-baht reward to members of the police team that arrested the man.

The police chief confirmed the arrest of the suspect was the result of arduous work by the investigation team led by Pol Gen Chakthip Chaijinda, the deputy police chief who will succeed him on Oct 1.

Other members of the team included Special Branch police led by Pol Lt Gen Chaiwat Ketworachai, Central Investigation Bureau police led by Pol Lt Gen Thitirat Nonghanpithak and Metropolitan Police led by Pol Lt Gen Srivarah Rangsipramanakul.

Police on Saturday arrested a foreign suspect in a raid at the Pool Anant apartment in Nong Chok district, where they also seized material for making bombs and forged Turkish passports. The suspect's nationality is still unknown. 

A military source revealed that the suspect identified himself as Bilan Muhammad, 47, and is now being detained at the 11th Army Circle in Bangkok.

The source also said the man illegally entered Thailand through the northern border and has lived here for almost one year. He can speak English and Arabic. Authorities used an Arabic translator during questioning. 

However, police will verify the forged Turkish passports with officials at the Turkish embassy to determine if the suspect is a Turkish national, the source said.


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