Thailand: Police Searching for Deep South Man Connected to Tourist Area Bombings

BenarNews Staff
Nakhon Sri Thammarat
160816-TH-MY-bombings-folo-620.jpg Thai soldiers patrol near the Erawan Shrine, a landmark popular with tourists in Bangkok, on the eve of the first anniversary of a bombing that killed 20 people there, Aug. 16, 2016.

Thai authorities are looking for a man from the insurgency-hit Deep South who may be connected to last week’s bombings of southern tourist hotspots, Thailand’s deputy police chief said Tuesday, although he did not link the suspect outright to regional rebel groups.

Authorities in Nakhon Sri Thammarat province on Tuesday put out a warrant for the arrest of a suspect identified as Ahama Lengha, a native of Narathiwat – one of the provinces in the Deep South. He is wanted for an attempted bombing at a beach in Phuket on Aug. 10, and for his alleged role in bomb and arson attacks.

The bomb at Patong Beach did not go off but police believe that Ahama played a role in a wider conspiracy that resulted in the deaths of four people in 11 bomb attacks and five arson attacks across upper southern Thailand on Aug. 11 and 12.

It was one of two bombs planted in the Phuket area on Wednesday but that were destroyed by bomb disposal squads, according to the Bangkok Post. The next day and on Friday, 11 bombs exploded in Nakhon Sri Thammarat and six other provinces in Thailand’s upper south.

“The evidence from the crime scene showed DNA matching with the suspect who maneuvered in Tak Bai, Narathiwat [province] since 2004,” Deputy National Police Chief Gen. Srivara Ransibrahmanakul told a press conference in Nakhon Sri Thammarat on Tuesday.

“According to our investigation, he is believed to be the key to other culprits in these cases,” Srivara said.

Ahama “planted a bomb at Patong Beach in Phuket on Aug. 10. We have concrete evidence,” the deputy police chief added during the news conference at the headquarters of the 8th regional police command.

He said Ahama had a long criminal record dating to 2004, the year when the long-running separatist insurgency in the predominantly Muslim and Malay-speaking Deep South re-ignited.

Two others wanted in arson case

A court in Nakhon Sri Thammarat Court on Tuesday also issued arrest warrants for two other men suspected of being linked to a related arson attack at a Tesco Lotus supermarket in Phuket on Friday, Srivara said without disclosing their identities.

A third man, identified as Chiang Mai resident Sakharin Karuehas, was arrested earlier on suspicion of taking part in setting the market on fire. On Tuesday, Sakharin was transferred from military to police custody, Srivara said.

A police source at the 8th regional command, which covers many of the southern provinces that were attacked, told Thai Rath newspaper that footage from the a security camera showed the two other suspects boarding a bus to Had Yai, a town that serves as a gateway to the Deep South, after the supermarket was set on fire.

Police have not ruled out a possible connection between the bombings and insurgent groups based in Thailand’s restive southern border region, although authorities in the past few days have given conflicting information about this possibility.

On Monday, the national police chief was quoted as saying that there were similarities “between the tourist spot bombings and those carried out by the separatists.”

Earlier on, authorities said they suspected that last week’s bombings were likely driven by politics and tied to an Aug. 7 constitutional referendum where a majority of voters supported a draft charter backed by Thailand’s junta.

Malaysia probes SIM card, phone used in Thai bombing

A bomb that was set off in Phuket last week was triggered by a mobile phone which may have originated from neighboring Malaysia, according to Thai officials.

The officials sent the phone, which was recovered from the site of the bombing, to Malaysian police to track down the owner.

But on Tuesday, Malaysian Inspector General of Police Khalid Abu Bakar told reporters in Kuala Lumpur that the phone’s SIM card had no serial number or characteristics that would clearly identify it.

“As far as our investigation is concerned, there is still no evidence that it can be said that the SIM card is from Malaysia,” the Malaysian police chief said.

“Each SIM card issued by [telecommunications companies] in Malaysia has a serial number by the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC), but we did not find the serial number,” he added.

Haireez Azeem Azizi in Kuala Lumpur contributed to this report.



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