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Wednesday, September 2

Bangkok Bombings: Updates, clarifications, confusion, and the man in the blue shirt UPDATED

UPDATE 6:05am EDT
The Associated Press has two more updates.  The times given are local:

3:45 p.m.

A Thai court has issued an arrest warrant for a Turkish man who is the husband of a Thai suspect already being sought in connection with Bangkok's deadly bombing.

National police chief Prawut Thavornsiri identified the man as Emrah Davutoglu. He is facing charges of conspiracy to possess unauthorized war materials.

Wednesday's arrest warrant is the eighth issued by Thai authorities in connection with the Aug. 17 bombing of a central Bangkok shrine, which left 20 people dead and more than 120 wounded.

Prawut says that Davutoglu is believed to have been "part of a network that provided accommodation" to those connected with the bombing.

Earlier this week, police issued an arrest warrant for his wife, Thai national Wanna Suansan, whose name was on the lease of an apartment that police raided over the weekend and discovered bomb-making materials.

Wanna had told police that she is in Turkey and had nothing to do with the bombing and wants to clear her name.

Prawut says Wanna had agreed to come back to Thailand to be questioned by police but then said "she has to think about it."

___

2:30 p.m.

Thailand's national deputy police chief, Chakthip Chaijinda, says the suspect arrested at the border speaks Turkish, which requires a translator.

He did not say whether a translator has been brought in or if the Turkish Embassy has been approached. [...]


A more extensive version of the latest AP updates is published here.  

*****

Yesterday's Bangkok Post reported, "Authorities believe a foreigner arrested Tuesday at the Cambodian border is the yellow-shirted man seen planting the deadly bomb at Bangkok’s Erawan shrine last month."

Well, maybe. By the evening the authorities had backed away from their belief. The Associated Press reported today (12:45pm local time):
Thai police say the fingerprints of a foreign man arrested at Thailand's border with Cambodia match those they found on a bottle containing bomb-making material.
The bottle was among many items seized during a raid Saturday of an apartment on the outskirts of Bangkok where another suspect was arrested as part of the investigation into the deadly Aug. 17 bombing at the Erawan shrine.
Both suspects are being interrogated by the military and have not yet been charged.
National police spokesman Prawut Thavornsiri said Wednesday that the man arrested at the border on Tuesday "is important and is related to or conspired with people" behind the bombing that killed 20 people and wounded more than 120.
That was all the AP was able to wring from sources and/or glean from the local press.

Disagreement also arose between news reports as to whether the suspect -- the one the wearing a baseball cap and large sunglasses that pretty much cover up his face -- was actually caught in Cambodia, or caught in Thailand near the border, or caught crossing into Cambodia.

As to Wanna, things have gotten quite mysterious:
Bomb pair in Cambodia, say police 
By WASSAYOS NGAMKHAM, PATSARA JIKKHAM and ONLINE REPORTERS
September 1, 2015 - 3:47pm [local time]
The Bangkok Post
[...] 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 were seen at the Min Buri apartment between Aug 10-20. The Erawan bomb blast was on Aug 17.
[...] 
Yesterday reporters for Reuters spelled Wanna's family name somewhat differently than other reports and unlike the Thai police, who believe she has a Turkish husband, aren't entirely sure she's married unless the Reuters people are being terribly politically correct:
The woman, Wanna Suansuant, has contacted authorities and would meet police, Somyot said on Tuesday. He gave no details.
Her family told police on Monday she travelled to Turkey to work with her partner and child two to three months ago.
As to the "bomb pair" -- to return to the Bangkok Post:   
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) said Monday. 
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.  
[...]
As to whatever happened to the first suspect who was nabbed, the same Bangkok Post report explains: 
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.
The 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.
The Sathon Pier bomb and Thailand's new reality


Bangkok Post: This "man in the blue T-shirt" was seen on CCTV removing his backpack and kicking it into the khlong, possibly discarding a bomb that was meant to explode at Asiatique. 

Anthony Davis, an intelligence analyst with IHS-Janes, made a splash a few days ago with his speculation that the Turkish terror group, the Grey Wolves, was a likely suspect in orchestrating the Bangkok bombings.  He's now come up with a theory that the intended target of the bomb that exploded harmlessly in the water at Sathon Pier on August 18 was the "Asiatique night market, a crowded riverside complex of restaurants and handicraft shops popular with east Asian, and mainly Chinese, tourists" near the pier.

The Bangkok Post thought enough of his theory to give him space yesterday for an op-ed, in which he goes into considerable detail to lay out the theory and argues that the bomber was forced to abandon his objective. 

I don't have an opinion on his theory beyond noting that he seems to know Thailand very well and has been on scene there.  (He made the speculation about the Grey Wolves during a panel discussion at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand.)

But the title of the opinion piece points to a larger argument: 
Attacks push Thailand into globalised era.  By this he means the globalized era of terrorism.  

At the moment, and from the hard evidence collected so far by Thai investigators, Davis's warning must be considered. The Bangkok Post "bomb pair" report noted:   

Also on Monday, the prime minister admitted that the network involved in the bombings could be linked to human trafficking rings smuggling Uighurs.
But even after the speculation was forced on police by the evidence, they had seen the bombings as an act of revenge in reaction to police crackdowns on human smuggling rather than an act of terrorism. I hope the police are right because in that case the bombings could be an isolated incident. If Davis is right, the world has changed for Thais.



Making a flower offering at Erawan Shrine,
 (AP Photo/Mark Baker) 
 *******
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