Thai officials on Tuesday announced they had arrested seven more suspects linked to a series of bombings in and around Bangkok last week.
The seven arrests brought the total number of suspects in custody to nine. Police arrested two men hours before the bombs went off Friday morning as they were traveling south from Bangkok.
“Today we have increased the number of suspects to nine. We are performing an extended investigation of perpetrators to bring them to justice by mean of the judicial process,” Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha told reporters on Tuesday.
Nine small devices exploded at five locations around the Thai capital Friday in what officials said was an attempt to disrupt a summit of the Association of Southeast Nations (ASEAN) taking place there. Four people were injured but none of the injuries was life-threatening.
On Monday, Prayuth said more than 10 people were involved in the bombings.
Prayuth and government spokeswoman Narumon Pinyosinwat did not identify the seven new suspects or give details about why they were arrested.
“Inter-agency officials worked together which resulted in suspects being arrested, two within the 24 hours, and they were able to arrest seven more. Those suspects are all under investigation,” Narumon told reporters.
‘We can’t rule out political motives’
Officials previously announced they had taken DNA samples from the first two suspects and were conducting tests to see if they matched DNA taken from the crime scenes.
The two men, identified as Wildar Maha, 29, and Lu-Ai Sae Ngae, 23, were taken into custody in Chum Phon province in southern Thailand late Thursday. Police alleged the duo had been caught on surveillance cameras planting a box containing an electric circuit and ball bearings but no explosive materials outside the National Police Bureau in Bangkok on Thursday.
Meanwhile, the director of Deep South Watch, a think tank at the foremost university in southern Thailand, told BenarNews that the region’s largest militant group, the National Revolutionary Front (BRN), could be responsible for the attacks.
“Aug. 1 is the birthday of the BRN and there was violence in Deep South throughout the day. It may have expanded to Bangkok to show off the group’s potential to attract the government and the public to turn to the Deep South issue,” said Srisompob Jitpiromsri.
“But we can’t rule out political motives either,” he added.
On Friday, Zachary Abuza, an American security analyst specializing in Southeast Asia, said he did not believe there was a link between Deep South insurgents and the Bangkok bombings.
The blasts “have no ties to the insurgency in the #DeepSouth, that has its very own bombings,” he said in a tweet.
Southern militants rarely mount attacks outside Thailand’s southernmost provinces, where they have been waging a low-grade but persistent insurgency since 2004.
Thailand’s Deep South borders Malaysia and encompasses Pattani, Narathiwat and Yala provinces as well as four districts in neighboring Songkhla. Nearly 7,000 people have been killed in violence in the Malay-speaking, majority Muslim region since a separatist insurgency flared in 2004.