Thai blast probe: KL arrests three suspects

Thai police stand guard as people pray during a crime re-enactment near the bomb site at Erawan shrine in central Bangkok, Thailand, on Sept 9, 2015.
Thai police stand guard as people pray during a crime re-enactment near the bomb site at Erawan shrine in central Bangkok, Thailand, on Sept 9, 2015.PHOTO: REUTERS

Malaysia has arrested three suspects in connection with the investigation into a bomb blast in central Bangkok last month that killed 20 people.

Inspector-General of Police Khalid Abu Bakar yesterday told reporters that the two Malaysians and a Pakistani national were assisting with the investigation. The arrests were made after a tip-off by the Thai authorities, he said.

Royal Thai Police spokesman Prawut Thavornsiri told journalists that the arrests in Malaysia were in connection with people smuggling. He said the three could have been helping other suspects in the case.

"Malaysia conducted an investigation based on our information. They have arrested people they suspected (of) people smuggling. This group brings people in illegally. Whether they are linked to our bomb suspects or not, we have to wait and see."

The Malaysian authorities had no plans to hand them over to Thai police, Mr Khalid said.

The Bangkok explosion ripped through a Hindu shrine during rush hour on Aug 17, killing 20 and wounding over 100. Fourteen foreigners were among those killed.

Meanwhile, Thai police, unravelling a wide-ranging network, detained three Thai women at the weekend on suspicion of involvement. This yielded the name of another suspect, Abdul Tawab, identified as a Pakistani who had allegedly transferred about 330,000 baht (S$13,000) to other suspects in Thailand.

Tawab allegedly left the country on Sept 5, reports said.

"Tawab is from Lahore and is involved in human trafficking," a source familiar with the investigation told The Straits Times.

Thai police had searched "tens of places", General Prawut told journalists yesterday. "We are working together with our neighbouring countries - Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar - coordinating with every agency - police, immigration, border patrol."

Police had determined that another key suspect, Abudusataer Abudureheman, had left Thailand the day before the blast and travelled to Dhaka, and then on to Istanbul on Aug 30, transiting in New Delhi and flying on via Abu Dhabi.

Abudureheman's name and pictures were first released last Saturday. The first picture released by police identified his ethnicity as Uighur, but the police later released another picture with the reference deleted and asked the media not to identify him as Uighur.

Multiple sources, as well as analysts, said the evidence points to the probability that the blast was in retaliation for Bangkok's deportation of more than 100 Uighurs in July, which sparked outrage at the time.

Thai police said the network that they uncovered was involved in human smuggling. The police have at least two foreign males in custody. One of them, Yusufu Mieraili, like Abudureheman, had a Chinese passport issued in China's Xinjiang province - home to the ethnic minority Uighurs.

When asked whether the bomb blast was retaliation by a human- trafficking network for the deportation of the Uighurs, or for some other reason, the source familiar with the investigation, who spoke to The Straits Times on condition of anonymity, said: "Whichever way you put it, at the end of the day, these are Uighur militants."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 15, 2015, with the headline 'Thai blast probe: KL arrests three suspects'. Print Edition | Subscribe