Thailand’s prime minister says a second foreign suspect has been arrested at a border checkpoint in connection with last month’s Bangkok shrine bombing that killed 20 people.
The male suspect was arrested in Sa Kaeo province, which is east of Bangkok on the border with Cambodia, Prayuth Chan-ocha said.
“We have arrested one more. He is not a Thai,” the prime minister told reporters after a weekly cabinet meeting.
It was the second confirmed arrest in connection with the August 17 blasts at Erawan shrine that killed mostly ethnic Chinese devotees.
Prayuth, who also heads the nation’s junta, was asked by reporters whether the man arrested was thought to be the person who planted the bomb at the religious shrine, to which he replied: “We are interrogating. He is a main suspect and a foreigner.”
The arrested man was identified only as “Yusufu”. Thai media Tuesday widely published a photo of a Chinese passport of a man matching the suspect’s description. In the passport, he is identified as Yusufu Mieraili, 25, from Xinjiang province.
Xinjiang is the home province for China’s Uighur Muslim minority.
The suspect was believed to be on his way from Thailand to Phnom Penh when he was arrested.
Woman denies role in blasts
Thai authorities confirmed Tuesday that the woman wanted for the blasts Wanna Suansan, 26, was currently overseas but refused to say in which country.
Late on Monday news agency AFP tracked down her number and a woman answering that name took the phone call, saying she was living in the Turkish city of Kayseri with her husband whose nationality she did not state.
Wanna denied any knowledge of the attack and said she was “shocked” to be linked with the crime.
The New York Times reported that Ibrahim Komkham, the headman of the Phang-nga village where Wanna’s family lives, said that she had spoken to him by phone, telling him she had left the apartment in June and did not understand why the police thought she was a suspect.
Wanna is willing to come back to Thailand to prove her innocence, he said. He quoted her as saying she would “surrender anywhere, anytime.”
On his Twitter account, The New York Times reporter Thomas Fuller said he had confirmed that Wanna had asked police to send her an airplane ticket or the cash to buy one, so that she could return. Fuller said he had learned Wanna claimed she did not have the cash to buy a ticket.
“The warrant is a mistake,” he quoted her as saying. “Thailand has made me look like this?”
Police said she had rented an apartment in Min Buri district in northeastern Bangkok, where bomb-making materials were found.
Reporters for the AFP news agency tracked down the number for Wanna and a woman answering that name took the phone call late Monday, saying she was living in the town of Kayseri in Turkey with her husband whose nationality she did not state.
The reporters could not further confirm her identity.
Wanna, a Thai-speaking Muslim from southern Phang Nga province, said she was horrified when a friend in Thailand told her that a photograph from her identity card had been circulated to the Thai public.
“I was very shocked and thought my friend was joking with me,” she said.
“I have not been to that apartment for almost one year now… I rented it and then my husband’s friend stayed. I don’t know how many people stayed there.”
“I have been here (Turkey) for around three months,” she said, adding Thai police had called her on Monday and asked her “not to worry” and to stay in contact with them.
When AFP called her back later she said she could not speak further since Thai police had warned her not to talk to the media.
Thai police late Monday refused to confirm whether they believed Wanna was in Turkey.
A sketch of a moustachioed male suspect, who police describe as an unidentified foreigner, was also shown during the Thai junta television broadcast.
Police said he too is believed to have rented the flat.
Wanna said she did not recognize the man in the sketch.
The release of Wanna’s name and photograph appeared to point to police narrowing down the hunt for the those behind the shrine bomb.
No one has claimed responsibility for the blast and Wanna’s denial further clouds an already murky picture of the attack on Thailand.
The man was also found with a stack of fake Turkish passports. That arrest led them to the apartment rented by Wanna.