By Isla Lamont
Thailand’s Chief of Police Somyot Poompanmoung has promised to reward his own men with an $83,000 prize for capturing a suspect in the Erawan Shrine bombing.
BBC reports that during a press conference on August 31, Mr. Poompanmoung publicly displayed three large bundles of banknotes, for which he has received criticism. He defended his actions, saying that his men had worked with no tips and apprehended the suspect in the bombings through their own investigative skills.
Despite the prize, authorities are not sure that the man captured, a 28-year-old foreigner, is the main perpetrator in the bombings. There are still arrest warrants out for two other accomplices. According to BBC, Thai police said that they do not believe the apprehended man is the suspect seen in CCTV footage at the shrine moments before the explosion.
Police are still searching for a Thai woman, Wanna Saunsan, and another unnamed foreign man.
The shrine was located at the Ratchaprasong intersection of the capital, near a hotel, shopping center, and public transit system. It received thousands of tourists, mostly Chinese, and local visitors daily. The explosive was a pipe bomb with over six pounds of TNT wrapped in a white cloth. The explosion killed 20 people and injured more than 120.
Bomb-making materials, including fertilizer bags, gun powder, watches, and radio controls, were found by Thai police in the apprehended suspect’s home, and in a second apartment linked to the other two fugitives. Police spokesperson Prawut Thavornsiri said, “Nobody would keep [these materials] unless they wanted to make a bomb.”
Thai police stated that they have ruled out international terrorism. Their information was reportedly gathered through domestic intelligence, as well as consultations with allied countries, including the United States. No international terror organizations have stepped forward to claim responsibility.
Poompanmoung’s police force received further criticism for mishandling the crime scene. The popular temple in downtown Bangkok remained unsealed for several hours after the explosion, allowing access to the crime scene and potential tampering. The crater produced by the explosion was cemented over, eradicating the possibility of future forensic work. In a statement made after the attack, Chief Poompanmoung stated that the group responsible included ten or more individuals.
The suspects apprehended and named in the search are one native and two foreigners. Due to the apparent lack of political motivation and the overwhelming carnage of an attack on a Buddhist nation, public opinion in Thailand sustains that the bombing was the work of foreigners with unconfirmed motives. One theory is that the Muslim Uighur, a small minority group originally from China, were behind the attack, in response to the recent deportation to China of Uighur refugees by the Thai government.
According to a report by the Associated Press, a 2013 survey by the anti-corruption group Transparency International found that 71% of local respondents judged the Thai police as corrupt or extremely corrupt, due in large part to the low pay received by officers. Earlier this year, the police force was suspected of using torture to force a false confession out of two immigrants regarding the murder of two British tourists, setting a precedent of false police work for the sake of pacifying tourists.