Thai police Saturday said a foreigner held in custody over the deadly Bangkok attack in August was the same yellow-shirted man seen on CCTV placing a rucksack at the shrine moments before the blast.
On Saturday, national police spokesman Prawut Thavornsiri said the investigators now claimed the first arrested suspect, a man police identified as Adem Karadag and whose nationality remains unconfirmed, was the bomber.
Prawut alleged he placed the bomb at the shrine, then called a motorbike taxi and changed his shirt at a restroom in nearby Lumpini Park.
Karadag’s lawyer Chuchart Kanphai – who says his client’s real name is Bilal Mohammed – could not immediately be reached for comment. Earlier this week, he had cast doubt on rumours of his confession to the crime adding that his client was not in the country at the time of the attack.
The suspect faces up to eight charges including premeditated murder, Prawut said.
Karadag is due to undergo a reenactment of his alleged role in the crime – a standard Thai police procedure – starting at the shrine.
The unprecedented attack in the heart of Bangkok’s bustling downtown district last month shocked the nation and dealt a fresh blow to Thailand’s reputation as a tourist haven.
The motive for the bombing remains unclear but this month Thailand’s police chief linked the attack to China’s Uighur minority for the first time, after weeks of speculation over their role.
Somyot Poompanmoung blamed the blast on a gang of people-smugglers motivated by revenge for a crackdown on their lucrative trade including the transfer of Uighurs.
That motive has been widely dismissed by security experts who instead have pointed to Thailand’s forced deportation of 109 Uighurs to China in July, a move that ignited anger in Turkey where nationalist hardliners see the minority as part of a global Turkic-speaking family.
Mostly Muslim Uighurs have long accused Beijing of religious and cultural repression in China’s far western Xinjiang region, with hundreds of refugees believed to have fled in recent years, often heading to Turkey via south-east Asia.
Thai police arrested Karadag in a flat on the outskirts of Bangkok late last month saying he was in possession of bomb-making equipment and dozens of fake Turkish passports.
The other man is custody has been identified as Yusufu Mieraili, who was seized with a Chinese passport that police believe is real. It notes Xinjiang as his birthplace.
Kanphai had previously said his client was born in Xinjiang’s capital, Urumqi, but moved to Turkey in 2004 where he received Turkish nationality and found work as a truck driver with his brother.
He entered Thailand on 21 August, four days after the bomb blast, with the aim of finding work in Malaysia, the lawyer has said.