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Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Suspect in Bangkok Bombing Has Chinese Passport, Thailand Says

The Thai police said Wednesday that their main suspect in a deadly attack on a Bangkok shrine has a Chinese passport indicating he is from the far western Chinese region of Xinjiang, but that they had not yet verified whether the passport was authentic.

If confirmed, that information would strengthen the case made by some security analysts that the Aug. 17 bombing of the Erawan Shrine— which killed 20 people, including many ethnic Chinese tourists — was connected to the political grievances of Uighurs, a Turkic, mostly Muslim people. Uighurs in Xinjiang say they are oppressed by the ethnic Han, who dominate China.
More specifically, the involvement of a Xinjiang resident would buttress the argument, which has been widely repeated in the Thai news media, that the attack may have been revenge for Thailand’s repatriation to China of more than 100 Uighurs in July.
Much remained uncertain, however, and the investigation of the bombing has been plagued by a number of false leads.
The Thai police have yet to release the name of the man said to have been in possession of the Chinese passport. They announced Tuesdaythat he had been arrested along Thailand’s border with Cambodia, and that he had been trying to flee the country. That account was contradicted by some officials quoted in Thai and Cambodian news media, who said the man had been arrested in Cambodia and handed over to Thailand.
On Wednesday, the police said the man’s fingerprints matched those found on what they described as bomb-making materials that were seized in a raid on a suburban Bangkok apartment over the weekend.
“We can confirm that the man was involved in the blast,” Prawut Thavornsiri, a spokesman for the police, said. “He may be the person who carried the bomb out of the apartment or brought the bomb to the crime scene.”
The attack on the shrine, a popular tourist attraction in central Bangkok, was the deadliest bombing in Thailand’s recent history.
The authorities have said the group that carried out the bombing was involved in human trafficking, but until Wednesday, they had avoided connecting the case to the Uighurs. A directive issued by the Interior Ministry last week instructed officials not to refer to Uighurs when discussing the bombing, and to call the attack a “disturbance,” not terrorism.
Also on Wednesday, the police issued an arrest warrant for Emrah Davutoglu, a Turkish man who was charged with possession of war materials without permission. The police did not elaborate on Mr. Davutoglu’s supposed involvement in the case, but they said he is married to Wanna Suansan, a Thai woman who is also being sought by the police.
Ms. Wanna, who rented an apartment outside Bangkok where the police say bomb-making materials were found, is currently in Turkey. She has said that she moved out of the apartment a year ago and left Thailand well before the Aug. 17 blast, and that she would return to prove her innocence.
The repatriation of Uighurs to China in July led to heavy criticism of Thailand’s military government by human rights groups and foreign governments, which said the Uighurs were likely to face persecution upon their return. But if the bombing proves to be connected to the repatriation, the military government could be criticized domestically for a different reason — that it had jeopardized the safety of the country.
The military seized control from a democratically elected government last year, saying that it would keep Thailand safe from political turmoil and violence.

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