Another bomb found as Thailand continues manhunt

A worker last Thursday fixing a CCTV camera installed above the reopened Erawan Shrine, where 20 people were killed on Aug 17 in a bomb blast. National police chief Somyot Pumpanmuang has claimed that malfunctioning equipment was hampering investigat
A worker last Thursday fixing a CCTV camera installed above the reopened Erawan Shrine, where 20 people were killed on Aug 17 in a bomb blast. National police chief Somyot Pumpanmuang has claimed that malfunctioning equipment was hampering investigation.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Uncertain if new discovery is related to shrine blast; faulty CCTVs hampering probe

Thai police defused a bomb in Bangkok yesterday amid a manhunt for the culprits behind last week's deadly blast in the heart of the capital.

It was not clear if yesterday's bomb - which local media reported was an old grenade found in a construction site off major thoroughfare Sukhumvit Road - was related to the Aug 17 blast which killed 20 people and injured over 100.

Investigators appear to have hit a wall even though the ruling junta said police have "gathered evidence".

"We have been cooperating with the intelligence agencies of other countries on the information and possible traces of an individual that looks like the suspect as well as other related individuals," it added in its daily telecast.

National police chief Somyot Pumpanmuang, however, has expressed frustration at malfunctioning equipment, which he claimed was hampering investigations.

"Sometimes there might be 20 CCTV cameras on a road, but only five of them work," Agence France-Presse news agency quoted him as saying. "Another 15 might be broken for whatever reason."

Thailand does not collect biometric data of visitors, which makes it harder to trace suspects, he said.

Investigators are working under intense scrutiny as 14 of the 20 killed were foreign nationals.

One day after the rush-hour blast at Erawan Shrine in downtown Bangkok, there was another explosion underwater by Sathorn pier. Both places are usually teeming with tourists.

No one was hurt in the second incident, and police have yet to conclude whether the two blasts are connected.

Police have so far released a sketch of only one suspect, a bespectacled, bearded man of undetermined nationality with a thick mop of hair.

Locals, fearing follow-up bomb attacks, flooded hotlines with information about suspicious items.

Meanwhile, a Hong Kong journalist on his way home after covering the Erawan shrine bombing was detained at Suvarnabhumi airport for trying to board a plane with a flak jacket. Under Thai law, the item is classified as military equipment and ownership is permitted only with a licence. Offenders face up to five years in jail.

Despite this, such vests have been openly worn by journalists for protection while reporting on the country's recent political unrest and accompanying violence.  

Anthony Kwan Hok Chun, a photographer for Hong Kong-based Initium Media, was detained overnight on Sunday and granted bail by a Thai court yesterday. The court has set the next hearing on Sept 7.

"I didn't think about it," he told The Straits Times yesterday. "I really didn't know."

The vest belonged to his company, and it was the first time he had taken it out for use. Even then, he did not wear it at all while on assignment in Bangkok.

Two Hong Kong residents were killed and another six injured in the shrine bombing.

The Foreign Correspondents' Club of Thailand (FCCT) said in a statement that it was "dismayed" at the charge.

"Body armour and helmets used by journalists are not offensive weapons and should not be treated as such," it said.

The use of body armour is "routine" by journalists around the world to "enable them to do their jobs in dangerous situations".

During clashes between Thai military and anti-government protesters in 2010, Japanese television cameraman Hiroyuki Muramoto and Italian photographer Fabio Polenghi were killed by gunfire.

The FCCT urged the Thai authorities to drop the case against Kwan and decriminalise the use of body armour and other protective items.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 25, 2015, with the headline 'Another bomb found as Thailand continues manhunt'. Print Edition | Subscribe