More than 10 people were involved in minor bomb blasts that injured four people around Bangkok last week, Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-Cha said Monday, as police awaited results of DNA tests that could establish whether two Deep South men arrested last week were among them.
Nine small devices exploded at five locations around the Thai capital during daylight hours on Friday in what officials called an attempt to disrupt a summit of the Association of Southeast Nations (ASEAN) taking place there, with top diplomats from more than 30 countries on hand.
“[We] do not rule out any possible motives. We need to be patient and carefully investigate … there are more than 10 people involved who must be brought to justice,” Prayuth told reporters, referring to the Bangkok blasts. He did not say what his assertion was based on.
“We can’t name the culprits yet, but whoever they are, they are mean, black-hearted, to have created turmoil in the country while it is moving forward with an elected, democratic government,” Prayuth said while speaking at a military academy in central Nakhon Nayok province.
Southern militants rarely mount attacks outside Thailand’s southernmost provinces, where they have been waging a low-grade but persistent insurgency since 2004.
In the latest attacks there, bombs exploded at three ATM booths in Pattani province Sunday morning, security officials said. No one was hurt or claimed responsibility, according to media reports.
‘Never torture him’
Separately, police and relatives named two Deep South men picked up in southern Thailand late Thursday after police said they were seen on surveillance cameras planting a box containing an electric circuit and ball bearings but no explosive materials outside the National Police Bureau in Bangkok earlier in the day.
Officials said the two men – Wildar Maha, 29, and Lu-Ai Sae Ngae, 23 – were being held for questioning at a police operations center in the Deep South province of Yala.
Authorities were performing DNA tests to establish whether the two were involved in the blasts, according to police Maj. Gen. Tewthawat Nakhonsri, superintendent of the police forensic bureau.
“At the moment, officials have compiled DNA samples of the duo to compare them with the DNA database of the police and other government agencies, to see if they had crime records in the Deep South or elsewhere,” Tewthawat told reporters.
“It will take about two to three days to see if the DNA matches with the specimen from the scene at the National Police Bureau, before we can pass these findings on to a working committee to see if a charge could be pressed,” said Tewthawat.
Relatives, including Wildar’s mother, Rohaning Maha, were relieved to learn the whereabouts of the two men on Monday.
“I feel fine seeing him and happy seeing him safe,” Rohaning said. “I forgot to ask him about the events, but I asked officials to perform their duties fairly. If he is guilty, they should proceed accordingly, but never torture him.”
Asked whether the bombings in Bangkok would impact stalled peace talks between southern insurgents and the Thai government, Prayuth replied that the talks “must be conducted cautiously.”
“And they must abide with the constitution. Thailand is a single, indivisible state in terms of territory and areas within the nation,” he said.
He said that for now, Gen. Udomchai Thammasarorat, the chief peace negotiator for the Thai government, would continue in that role despite his recent appointment as a senator.
In 2013, southern insurgents successfully set off bombs near Ramkhamhaeng University in Bangkok, injuring at least six people.
In August 2016, a series of coordinated bomb attacks killed four people and injured more than 30 others at tourist hotspots across southern Thailand, in provinces outside the Malay speaking, majority-Muslim region where violence linked to a separatist movement has claimed some 70,000 lives since 2004.