Repaired shrine statue unveiled (China Daily)

Police say foreign suspect arrested last week may not be bomb planter

Thai authorities unveiled the restored centerpiece of the Erawan Shrine on Friday, in the latest bid to boost confidence among Bangkok’s tourism and business communities almost three weeks after a deadly bombing that left 20 dead.

In the past week, police have arrested two people and identified seven more believed to be part of a network that carried out the Aug 17 blast, which also injured more than 120 people.

However, police said on Friday that a foreign suspect arrested at the border near Cambodia is unlikely to be the yellow-shirted man who planted the bomb.

The definitive ruling out of the suspect implies that the person who bombed the shrine remains at large.

National police spokesman Prawut Thavornsiri said DNA samples taken from the suspect did not match the DNA found on evidence that the bomber is believed to have left behind in a taxi, a banknote and a motorcycle taxi he took after leaving a pipe bomb under a bench at the open-air shrine when it was packed with worshippers.

“We don’t have any evidence to say that he is the yellow-shirted man … from the investigation. Maybe he is not” the yellow-shirted man, said Prawut.

“However, he is definitely involved with the bombing,” he added.

Police are certain of this because his DNA was found in the two apartments on the outskirts of Bangkok from where bomb-making materials were also found, Prawut said.

Another suspect who was arrested from one of the apartments on Aug 29 has also been ruled out as being the bomber. Police have also identified seven other suspects for whom arrests warrants have been issued.

Speaking at Friday’s ceremony to unveil the repaired shrine, Thai Minister of Culture Vira Rojpojchanarat told reporters, “The most important issue for the country’s image is to restore confidence about safety.”

The ministry’s Fine Arts Department repaired 12 areas of the shrine’s gleaming golden statue of the Hindu god Brahma that were damaged by the attack, notably its four-headed face where a chin was blasted out, Vira said.

Investigation’s pace

In the past week, the investigation’s pace picked up, with police arresting the two suspects and carrying out two raids on homes in Bangkok where bomb-making materials were discovered.

A third raid on Thursday, authorities found “suspicious fluid in a barrel” that was being analyzed by explosives experts, said Prawut. But initial tests showed that the fluid “cannot be used as explosive components”, military spokesman Winthai Suvaree said on Friday.

Thai authorities have suggested that at least two of the nine suspects are possibly Turkish, prompting the Turkish embassy in Bangkok to issue a statement on Thursday saying it has not received confirmation from Thai authorities about the suspects’ nationalities.

The other suspects include a Thai woman identified as Wanna Suansan and said to be married to a Turkish man. Both are being sought by Thai police.

The home police raided on Thursday was leased by Wanna, the police spokesman said. The home is in the outer Bangkok neighborhood of Min Buri near another apartment also leased by Wanna where police found gunpowder, fertilizer and other bomb-making materials in a raid last weekend.

In interviews with Thai media, Wanna said she is innocent and is currently living in Turkey.

Repair and restoration of the Erawan Shrine’s Brahma statue is illustrated with a photo that shows the damage on Aug 24, a week after the blast, and the same statue on Friday. The explosion at the shrine killed 20 people and injured more than 120. Nicolas Asfouri / Agence France-Presse

(China Daily 09/05/2015 page8)