BANGKOK – Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha, said on Tuesday that security forces had arrested a man they believed might have planted the bomb that killed 20 people in Bangkok two weeks ago.
Just hours after the arrest along the Thai-Cambodian border, a police spokesman, Lt. Gen. Prawut Thavornsiri, said the authorities were confident “that this is a key perpetrator in this case.”
But in an investigation that has been criticized for a number of false leads, the police acknowledged that they had minimal evidence to substantiate their suspicions.
“We don’t have the evidence yet,” General Prawut said, adding that the man was charged for attempting to cross the border illegally. He said the authorities had yet to conduct DNA and other forensic tests.
The police said they did not know the nationality of the man detained on Tuesday but said he was foreign.
The male suspect was arrested in Sa Kaeo province, east of Bangkok on the border with Cambodia, Prayuth Chan-ocha told reporters.
He described the man as “a main suspect”.
General Prayuth said the man had sought to evade security forces before being detained.
“He was trying to escape,” General Prayuth said.
“We are looking for the bomber, the person who ordered it and the person who used a phone,” he said, without elaborating. “We have to arrest them all.”
Images of the detainee in military custody showed a tall, thin man with trimmed facial hair, wearing sunglasses and a baseball cap. Authorities said he was carrying a Chinese passport, and images of the passport identification page were released.
Asked whether he is thought to be the person who planted the bomb, Mr Prayuth replied: “We are interrogating. He is a main suspect and a foreigner.”
At a press conference, Thailand’s national police spokesman Lt Gen Prawut Thavornsiri confirmed that police were “confident that he is the key suspect” and was believed to have been involved in the network that staged the attacks.
He said the man was apprehended trying to cross the Thai-Cambodia border at an illegal point, and was currently being held without charge. He added that the man spoke to officers in English.
On Monday, the authorities issued two arrest warrants in connection with the case, one of them for Wanna Suansan, a 27-year-old woman from a Muslim area in southern Thailand whose family said she had moved to Turkey weeks before the bombing. She said Monday through the headman of the village where her family lives in southern Thailand that she is innocent and willing to come back to Thailand to prove that.
The village headman said Tuesday that the family was shocked when they saw news of the warrant because the police had not contacted them beforehand.
By Thomas Fuller, BBC