THE CHIEF investigator looking into the deadly Erawan Shrine blast flew to Malaysia yesterday to seek more information and meet with a detainee believed to be a prime suspect in the attack, an informed source said.
Deputy national police chief Pol General Chakthip Chaijinda led the team, which included Central Investigation Bureau chief Pol Lt-General Chaiwatketworachai and the deputy chief of the Metropolitan Police Bureau, Pol Maj-General Chanthep Sesawet.
They were expected to meet Malaysia’s national police chief Khalid Abu Bakar over reports that the key suspect may have been detained during recent raids of many apartments and rented homes in Kuala Lumpur.
The suspect in question reportedly looks similar to the man in a yellow T-shirt who was captured on surveillance video leaving a backpack containing the bomb at the shrine on August 17. The explosion killed 20 people and injured about 120 others.
The source also said the man held in Malaysia had confessed to playing a part in the attack after two days of interrogation. Based on that information, Chakthip decided to travel to Kuala Lumpur to seek more information on the man, he claimed.
According to the source, the suspect now holds a renewed passport from the Turkish Embassy in Kuala Lumpur and was about to travel to Turkey when he was nabbed. He identified himself as Ari, 31.
The source quoted the suspect as saying that after the blast, he escaped to Kuala Lumpur with the assistance of Thais and foreigners who provided shelters and sought escape routes for him to go to a third country.
It was believed the suspect might give a false name, the source said, and Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan had been informed of all the information. Meanwhile, a senior security source said police also suspected that the man detained in Kuala Lumpur might be the second key suspect, known as “blue-shirt man”. He was seen in security-camera footage kicking a bag suspected of containing a bomb into water near the Chao Phraya River on the evening of August 17 at Sathorn pier, under the Taksin Bridge. The bomb went off the next day but no one was injured.
Thai authorities have focused inquiries on a belief that the Erawan blast was caused by human-trafficking gangs who were badly affected by the government’s serious crackdowns on the network. National police chief Pol General Somyot Poompanmuang declined to confirm reports that Chakthip had gone to Kuala Lumpur to meet the suspect.
He said Chakthip as the chief investigator had every right to conduct the investigation. “Pol General Chakthip can proceed with the probe as he sees fit. He can go to Malaysia without having to inform me,” Somyot said.
Police and security officials have been working hard to bring the bombers and accomplices to justice, Somyot said. If Kuala Lumpur has detained the real bomber, Thai authorities will work to get him according to international laws and cooperation, he said.
Metropolitan Police Bureau commissioner Lt-General Sriwara Rangsiprammanakul disclosed yesterday that many more arrest warrants would be issued, over the 13 already issued, as police were proceeding to interrogate many witnesses for more information. He said three witnesses sent by the military had been interrogated.