Lack of progress frustrates Thai police in bomb probe

PHOTOGRAPHER IN TROUBLE::Hong Kong-based Anthony Kwan Hok-chun was detained on Sunday as he was headed home because he had a bullet-proof vest

AP, BANGKOK

Tue, Aug 25, 2015 - Page 6

Thailand’s police chief yesterday said the investigation into last week’s bomb blast has been hampered by broken security cameras in central Bangkok along the main suspect’s getaway route.

Police are trying to “put pieces of the puzzle together,” but have had to use their imagination to fill holes where street side security cameras were broken and unable to record his movements, national police chief Somyot Poompanmoung said.

One week after the bombing at the Erawan Shrine, which left 20 people dead and scores injured, police appeared no closer to tracking down suspects or determining a motive for the attack.

Police yesterday said that a worker digging at a construction site found a grenade buried in the ground and a police explosives squad was sent to defuse it.

The grenade appeared to have been buried for a while and authorities “do not think it has anything to do with bombing,” police Lieutenant Sakon Rungkiatpaisarn said.

Police have released an artist sketch of the prime suspect from last week’s blast, who is seen in security camera footage from the open-air shrine leaving a backpack at a bench and walking away.

However, the images are blurry and after the suspect leaves the scene, the security cameras were broken at key spots along his suspected path, Somyot “Sometimes there are 20 cameras on the street, but only five work,” Somyot said, openly frustrated as he spoke to reporters. “We have to waste time putting the dots together.”

“Have you seen CSI?” Somyot asked reporters.

“We don’t have that,” he said, referring to high-tech equipment that can render blurry footage clear.

In other developments, a US photographer working in Hong Kong may face five years in jail after he was detained for carrying a bullet-proof vest and helmet while covering the aftermath of the Erawan bombing.

Anthony Kwan Hok-chun, who works for the Initium media group, is held after trying to depart Suvarnabhumi Airport on Sunday.

“We took this case, he will be charged with the normal process,” said Police Colonel Santi Wannarak, a senior officer at the airport, adding that Kwan could face a military trial.

“Having a bullet-proof vest in possession without permission is subject to five years in jail and/or fine of no more than 50,000 baht [US$1,400],” said Kwan’s lawyer, Sirikarn Charoensiri.

Basic personal protection equipment commonly used by media around the world such as gas masks, ballistic vests and helmets are classified as weapons under Thailand’s Arms Control Act and must be licensed.

Attempts by media groups over the years to seek permission from authorities to carry such items have fallen on deaf ears despite the country’s long history of deadly street protests. Until now, the ban on civilians and journalists carrying unlicensed equipment has largely been ignored.

Additional reporting by AFP