Bangkok blast: Thai police questioning foreigners

A group of Thai people releasing pigeons at the Erawan Shrine in central Bangkok yesterday, to mourn the victims of Monday night's deadly bomb attack at the site. Twenty people were killed and more than 120 were wounded in the incident.
A group of Thai people releasing pigeons at the Erawan Shrine in central Bangkok yesterday, to mourn the victims of Monday night's deadly bomb attack at the site. Twenty people were killed and more than 120 were wounded in the incident.PHOTO: REUTERS

Handful of visitors quizzed for resembling sketch of prime suspect in Bangkok bombing

BANGKOK • Swedish national Marcus Westberg was typing on his laptop when Thai police came knocking - one of a handful of foreigners questioned because of their similar looks to the primary suspect in the Bangkok bombing.

Mr Westberg, who is visiting Thailand on holiday, thought the questioning on Tuesday afternoon in Bangkok was just part of a routine security check. But then police asked him to account for his whereabouts on Monday evening, the same night a bomb blast tore through a religious shrine in the centre of Bangkok, killing 20 people and wounding over 120 others.

"It was not until they asked to see my phone and started going through my photos that I considered that something might be wrong," he said.

"They told me that I very much resembled their main suspect."

Other foreigners have found themselves in a similar predicament since the deadly blast as police scramble to locate the suspect and any accomplices he may have had. Most appear to have come under suspicion as they share a passing resemblance to a primary suspect, seen leaving a backpack under a bench at the Erawan Shrine in Bangkok's bustling shopping district just moments before the bomb went off.

A sketch of the alleged bomber released by Thai police, based on CCTV footage and witness descriptions, shows a young man dressed in a yellow T-shirt with dark, shaggy hair, a suggestion of stubble and thick-rimmed glasses.

The same day Mr Westberg was being questioned, an Australian model and aspiring actor called Sunny Burns posted a selfie on Instagram from inside a Thai police station.

He said he had handed himself in to police after amateur Internet sleuths started posting his details online as a potential bomb suspect.

Multiple Thai news reporters also posted pictures on Wednesday evening of what they said was a dual French-Swiss national who was briefly detained on arrival at Don Mueang airport in Bangkok. He too had shaggy hair and thick glasses.

Mr Westberg, who has a beard and neck-length hair, said his encounter with the Thai police was "fairly relaxed" and officers showed "politeness and professionalism" throughout the one-hour conversation.

"We agreed that the man in the CCTV footage had shorter hair and much less of a beard than I, and after joking with me that perhaps I should get a haircut before venturing outside again, they thanked me for my time and cooperation and apologised for any inconvenience," he said. "It really was not until the next day that I began to reflect on how very differently this could have played out."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 22, 2015, with the headline 'Thai police questioning foreigners'. Print Edition | Subscribe