International terrorists are not suspected of a bomb attack in Bangkok this week that killed 20 people and China was not the target, Thai authorities said yesterday, as police said they believed at least 10 plotters were involved.
There has been no claim of responsibility for the attack on Monday evening on the Erawan shrine, which the government has said was designed to wreck the economy. Authorities have not blamed any group for carrying out Thailand’s worst bombing.
“Security agencies have cooperated with agencies from allied countries and have come to the preliminary conclusion that the incident is unlikely to be linked to international terrorism,” said Colonel Winthai Suvaree, a spokesman for the ruling junta, known as the National Council for Peace and Order.
“Chinese people were not the direct target,” he said.
This appeared to be aimed at countering accusations run by some sections of the Thai media that militants representing Uighurs in China carried out the attack.
Thailand last month forcibly repatriated more than 100 Uighur refugees to China, stirring speculation that Monday’s attack may have been an act of revenge. The Erawan shrine is particularly popular with tourists, and 14 foreigners were among the dead, including seven from China and Hong Kong.
Winthai did not elaborate or say who might have been responsible.
Major General Apichart Suriboonya, the head of Thailand’s Interpol unit, said the government would be requesting help from Interpol.
Police on Wednesday said that a young man who was caught on grainy security camera footage planting the backpack bomb was believed to be European or Middle Eastern. However, authorities yesterday said the man in a yellow shirt and shorts, with thick, dark hair and a wispy beard and glasses might actually have been Thai and disguised to look foreign.
Police said at least 10 people were suspected of involvement and despite the focus of suspicion apparently shifting to a domestic plot, they appealed to Interpol for help in finding the man in the video.
National police chief Somyot Pumpanmuang said the investigation showed the attack was planned at least a month in advance by a “big network.”
“This includes those who looked out on the streets, prepared the bomb and those at the site and ... those who knew the escape route. I believe there must have been at least 10 people involved,” Somyot said.
Referring to speculation about the origin of the man in the video, he said: “The criminal could be someone from inside the country, but was disguised to make himself appear a foreigner.”
Checks at airports and other exit points found that no one matching the description of the main suspect had left the country since the attack, a police spokesman said.
Somyot did not say who he believed the plotters were, or elaborate on the investigation, but said no possibilities were being ruled out.
In other developments, the government yesterday appointed a new finance minister and a deputy premier to oversee the economy.
Additional reporting by AFP
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