Bangkok blast: Junta accuses media of inserting unrelated suicide vest photo during TV address

This television frame grab taken on Aug 29, 2015 from Thai television station Channel 3 shows a NCPO broadcast with an inset picture of a suicide vest (right).
This television frame grab taken on Aug 29, 2015 from Thai television station Channel 3 shows a NCPO broadcast with an inset picture of a suicide vest (right). PHOTO: AFP

BANGKOK (AFP) - Thailand's junta came under scrutiny on Sunday after an unrelated picture of a suicide vest was broadcast during a nationally televised address announcing the arrest of a foreign man in connection with last week's deadly Bangkok shrine bombing.

Officials later said the vest was not among the items found at the suspect's flat, warning people not to share the shot online, while a junta spokesman on Sunday accused broadcast media of inserting the erroneous picture.

When Thailand's junta broadcast an address, all free TV channels must run it.

Police on Saturday charged a foreign man after a raid on an apartment in Bangkok's eastern outskirts. Investigators say the man was found with bomb-making equipment linked to the Aug 17 blast, which killed 20 people and wounded scores more.

The broadcast at 6pm on Saturday featured a spokesman from the Royal Thai Police and a spokesman for the National Council for Peace and Order - the official name for the junta.

As junta official Colonel Winthai Suvaree spoke, images from inside the suspect's flat flashed up on the screen, including pictures of the man surrounded by officers, a close portrait of the man and items laid out on a rug.

Another picture was then briefly broadcast showing a vest covered in bulging pockets connected by wires, held up by a hand wearing a blue surgical glove. Col Winthai did not talk about or make reference to the pictures.

The picture of the vest was widely shared on social media, but late on Saturday the police took to Twitter to say the photo was not from the flat.

"The picture has nothing to do with the bombing. It is not official," police wrote on their Twitter account @PoliceSpokesmen.

"We would like to ask people who published that picture to stop their actions because it might bring concern to society and it could be in breach of computer legislation," they added in another tweet.

On Sunday morning, Colonel Winthai blamed Thai broadcasters, insisting the junta had only provided four pictures for the joint address to the nation.

"Besides those four pictures the media has inserted their pictures," he said.

The photograph of the vest originates with the United States' Transporation Security Administration (TSA) - the agency in charge of airport security.

They publish an official blog that each week details unusual items discovered at security checkpoints.

In a March 2013 entry, the TSA said an "explosives instructor" tried to carry "a vest that appeared to be a suicide vest" in a checked bag at Indianapolis airport.

The vest was "inert" but nonetheless caught the attention of the authorities with the photograph placed on their website.

The photograph has since been syndicated by media organisations and used to illustrate stories about suicide bombings around the world with the TSA credited as the original source for the shot.

The police investigation in the bomb attack has received criticism over how quickly investigators searched and cleared up the blast site, as well as confusing and sometimes contradictory statements from senior officers and junta officials.