16 September 2015
Police in Thailand investigating last month’s bomb at the Erawan Shrine in Bangkok said yesterday that an international human-trafficking network were responsible for the blast. Bangkok police say the bombing was retaliation against Thailand for the return of more than 100 Uighurs to China and for a crackdown on a lucrative human-trafficking network.
The Uighurs are a Turkic-speaking Muslim minority in the far west of China. Uighurs have close cultural and religious ties with Turkish Muslims and have complained about religious and cultural persecution from the authorities in Beijing. The deportation of 109 asylum-seeking Uighurs from Thailand to China in July led to international criticism. Following that decision there were a number of anti-Thai protests in Turkey. In Istanbul, the Thai consulate was attacked and travel advisories were issued for Thai nationals in Turkey. The protests also resulted in the temporary closure of the Thai embassy in Ankara.
Thai authorities were criticised in the early stages of the Bangkok bomb investigation, but have since made a number of breakthroughs and arrested some key suspects. One of the arrested men is said to come from China’s Xinjiang province and has apparently confessed to handing the backpack containing explosives to the bomber. He also told Thai police that the boss behind the operation was Chinese and left Thailand the day before the explosion. A number of suspects with links to Turkey have also been identified by Thai police, but the man who planted the bomb is still on the run. No group has claimed responsibility for the atrocity in Bangkok last month.
Meanwhile, the investigation has also uncovered a culture of corruption amongst some Thai border officials. Immigration officers have been found to have accepted bribes from an illegal network thought to be connected to the bomb suspects. The revelation has led to officers being removed from positions and a change in immigration procedures at certain border crossings into Thailand.
Update: 26 September 2015
Backtracking on earlier statements, Thai police now say they have evidence which confirms that one of the suspects in custody was the man who planted the bomb at the Erawan Shrine.