Attack linked to smuggling crackdown?
THAI police said yesterday a foreigner arrested in connection with the deadly Aug 17 Bangkok bombing was part of a people-smuggling gang that may have launched an attack in response to a crackdown on their trade.
The 28-year-old foreigner, who was not named and whose nationality was not identified, is being held in military custody at an undisclosed location. He was seized during a Saturday morning raid on a flat in Bangkok.
Investigators said he was found with bomb-making equipment and dozens of fake Turkish passports.
"The interrogation is not making progress because the suspect is not really giving useful information," army chief Udomdej Sitabutr told Agence France-Presse.
"We have to conduct further interrogations... while we have to be careful not to violate the suspect's rights," he added.
But national police spokesman Prawut Thavornsiri told a television station that officers believed the suspect was part of a crime group which helped illegal migrants obtain counterfeit documents - and that the bomb attack was retaliation for a recent crackdown by the Thai authorities.
"It's a network that fakes nationalities and sends them (illegal migrants) on to third countries," said the spokesman.
The police yesterday raided a second apartment block, but they found no suspect nor any suspicious materials, Reuters reported.
The blast that hit the Erawan Shrine killed 20 people, among them a Singaporean and seven from mainland China and Hong Kong.
The authorities have not said whether they believe the suspect now detained, who has been in Thailand since January last year, is the same man caught on video moments before the blast.
The Thai authorities have played down any suggestion the attack was launched by international terrorists or specifically targeted Chinese tourists.
Speculation has grown over involvement by China's ethnic Uighur Muslim minority - or their religious sympathisers - following Thailand's forced repatriation of more than 100 Uighur refugees last month to an uncertain fate in China.
The sudden repatriation of the group - among dozens detained in the kingdom for illegal entry last year after presenting themselves to police as Turks - triggered fury in Istanbul, with Bangkok's consulate there stormed by protesters.
The Uighurs are said to share a distant ethnic link with the Turks.