Bangkok blast: Unseen security footage underscores patchy probe

People gathering near a wanted poster for the main suspect of the deadly bomb blast.
People gathering near a wanted poster for the main suspect of the deadly bomb blast. PHOTO: REUTERS

BANGKOK (REUTERS) - Eleven days after Thailand's deadliest bombing police have yet to review CCTV footage taken minutes after the blast which features a man dressed like the chief suspect, Reuters has found.

The blast tore through the crowded Erawan Shrine on Aug 17, killing 20 people, most of them tourists, and injuring scores. Within minutes of the blast, say police, the suspect was dropped off by a motorcycle taxi at a nearby park and disappeared.

CCTV footage taken about two minutes later at a hospital across the road from the park appears to show a man walking in the opposite direction of the blast. He wears a yellow shirt and dark shorts, fitting the police description of the suspected bomber.

Police had yet to check the footage that Reuters journalists reviewed on Friday, said Lart Phanthaisong, head of building security at Chulalongkorn Hospital.

"The police have not come in, not once . . . But during the red shirt and yellow shirt incidents they came a lot," said Lart, referring to the often violent political protests staged near the hospital in the past.

Sombat Milinthajinda, a senior detective at the Metropolitan Police Bureau's investigation division, said police had checked security cameras at the hospital but that they were broken and no useful footage was found. "We checked security cameras at Chulalongkorn Hospital which were broken cameras and there was nothing. We did everything,"Sombat told Reuters.

The man in the footage might have been jogging back from nearby Lumpini Park. Yellow shirts are commonly worn in honour of King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

The time codes on the footage might also be wrong.

But the fact that police had failed to review film of a possible escape route raises the question of how much other footage in the vicinity had been overlooked and it could undermine an investigation that seems no closer to identifying the man or finding out why he bombed the shrine.

Winthai Suvaree, a spokesman for Thailand's ruling military junta, said in a brief televised statement on Friday "further forensic investigation" was being done to verify the identity of the perpetrator.

Across the road from the hospital is the parking lot where police say the suspect disappeared.

Investigators from four separate government agencies had already come to inspect footage from the parking lot's security cameras, said Surat, who monitors them. He declined to give a second name for fears of repercussions. "The police have been here, the army, the prime minister's office and the local city administration. They're all asking the same questions over and over again," Surat told Reuters.

Of the seven cameras he monitors from his security hut, four had stopped working months before and two had blurred or stained pictures.

Police have been in a war of words with the city government, known as the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration, over broken security cameras, saying a lack of maintenance has hindered their investigation.

They also say their investigation has been hampered by a lack of high-tech equipment. Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha has ruled out any foreign help, despite offers by several Western nations to assist in the investigation.