A Bangkok police source close to the investigation said the arrest of the foreign man, who is believed to be Turkish, came after investigators spent more than a week sifting through every mobile phone call made within the vicinity of the Erawan shrine around the time of the bombing on Aug 17, Bangkok Post reports.
He said officers managed to identify three Turkish phone numbers which had activated international roaming services and were in use near the blast site.
Police apparently traced one of those phone numbers to the suspect apprehended Saturday.
Around 100 police and soldiers moved in to make the arrest around 3 pm at the Pool Anant apartment building in Nong Chok district, in the city’s eastern outskirts.
A military source said the suspect held a Turkish passport by the name of Adem Karadag, 28, although the document was later found to be fake.
A large quantity of bomb-making materials and equipment which allegedly belong to the suspect were seized from his rented room.
Deputy national police chief Chakthip Chaijinda said “many” passports had also been found in the suspect’s room. They were confiscated as evidence and would be tested for authenticity.
“The interrogation is not making progress because the suspect is not really giving useful information,” army chief General Udomdej Sitabutr told AFP.
“We have to conduct further interrogations and make him better understand so he will be more cooperative — while we have to be careful not to violate the suspect’s rights,” he added.
Reclusive and secretive Muslim
Reuters interviews with neighbors, investigators and the community in the city suburb of Nong Chok paint a picture of a reclusive and secretive Muslim who seldom ventured beyond the four rooms he occupied in the grimy orange and cream-colored building.
According to a couple who rent a room on the same floor, the suspect was not alone and shared the accommodation with a man of similar ethnicity, who was last seen Friday.
“There’s another; he’s much taller,” said the man, who requested anonymity because he feared for his safety.
The couple said they instantly recognized the images on newscasts that went viral on social media of the thin, bearded man with a pale complexion and tightly cropped hair.
They had seen him sometimes kneeling and praying in the corridor. On the rare occasions he was spotted outside, he appeared focused and walked with purpose.
“They’re very quiet neighbors,” said the man. “The taller man buys food for them.”
A person matching the second man’s description had spoken only a few words of English while at a nearby food stall, according to vendors who last saw him Thursday.
Many Thai Muslims and foreigners live in Nong Chok, an area of cheap rents and short leases, where there are colleges, factories, rice paddies, mosques and streets dotted with halal restaurants.
Residents said the suspect was inconspicuous in a transient community of foreigners and university students in the sprawl of one of Asia’s most cosmopolitan capitals.
“The building often has foreigners renting rooms,” said Khantree Srisombat, 42, who lives in the same block.
“It’s normal here.”
The building owner who gave only his first name, Anant, said the lease contracts were signed using Turkish identification, but not by the arrested man.
When security forces burst into the building to make the arrest, the man declined to speak, even through a Turkish translator, according to a plain-clothes special branch officer who joined the raid.
The officer spoke to Reuters on condition his name be withheld and said two rooms were strewn with bomb-making materials, including urea fertilizer, TNT, C4, sodium carbonate, large plastic and steel containers, a fuse line, flashlights, screwdrivers and tape.
“The suspect never said a word,” the officer added.
Thailand’s junta came under scrutiny Sunday after mistakenly showing an unrelated picture of a suicide vest during a nationally televised broadcast announcing the arrest of the foreign man in connection with last week’s deadly Bangkok shrine bombing, The Nation said.
In an embarrassing U-turn, officials later said the vest was not among the items found at the suspect’s flat and warned people not to share the shot online.
It is the latest blunder to hit an investigation that 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.
Arrest warrants sought against 3 more
Police are seeking arrest warrants against three more foreigners suspected of being involved in Bangkok bomb attacks and having connection with the bomb suspect arrested in Nong Chok .
According to the source, the three were seen on CCTVs entering and leaving rooms No 412 and 414 of the Pool Anant apartment building.
The two rooms were rented by the suspect who was arrested at the apartment Saturday.
Police asked the court to approve warrants for the arrest of the three unidentified foreigners on suspicion of having explosives in possession.
The source said investigators believed there were six foreigners involved in the bomb attacks but so far, they have evidences to seek arrest warrants against three of them.