Thai bomber hunt hampered by faulty CCTV cameras
BANGKOK, Thailand – A week after a deadly bomb tore through central Bangkok, Thailand's police chief said Monday, August 24, the frantic search for those responsible has been hampered by faulty security cameras.
The trail is growing increasing cold 7 days after the bombing, which killed 20 people – mostly Asian tourists – in the capital's commercial heart and wounded scores more.
The main suspect is an unidentified man in a yellow T-shirt seen on CCTV placing a rucksack under a bench at the Erawan shrine minutes before the blast. He is still on the run, with police publicly no nearer to naming him or his motivation.
National police chief Somyot Poompanmoung said his officers were working at "full capacity with no rest".
But he added that the investigation was bedeviled by shortcomings, such as the fact that the majority of the city's security cameras were not working.
"Sometimes there might be 20 CCTV cameras on a road but only five of them work," he told reporters. "Another 15 might be broken for whatever reason."
Police also say they lack modern facial recognition technology to decipher who the bomber is from the grainy security camera footage.
Somyot is under intense pressure from both the public and the ruling junta to catch the perpetrators of an attack that sent shockwaves through the vital tourist sector.
It was Thailand's worst single mass-casualty attack and although the city's inhabitants have tried to get back to their lives, tensions remain high.
On Monday bomb disposal officers rushed to a quiet street off one of the city's main thoroughfares after a Myanmar migrant worker found a grenade on a construction site.
Police said the device had no link to their investigation and had been buried for some time.
Police are convinced the main suspect, who has been named in an arrest warrant as foreign, must have had help from a network, likely involving some Thais.
But Somyot said he was no nearer to knowing whether he had fled the country or not.
"I say that I believe he is still in Thailand because I don't have information to confirm otherwise," he said.
Security footage has played a role in tracking some of the key suspect's movements.
Cameras have picked him up arriving at the shrine via a three-wheeled "tuk-tuk" taxi, leaving the bag and then departing on a motorbike taxi south towards the Silom area of Bangkok.
After that he disappears from view.
Police have interviewed the motorbike drivers, with Somyot adding that DNA tests had been carried out on 20 baht notes that the suspect may have used.
The police chief said he was also hoping for technical help from other countries which might have computer equipment that can quickly search large amounts of CCTV footage, as well as "make the picture more clear".
He said a number of countries had offered help but some of their equipment did not work with the Thai systems. Other nations had been sent evidence but had yet to get back with their findings.
Last week junta chief Prayut Chan-O-Cha publicly bristled at any suggestions Thailand might ask for foreign investigators, though he has said he is open to technical advice from overseas.
A sketch of the main suspect has been widely circulated and bounties totaling more than $300,000 have been offered for his arrest, prompting a flood of enquiries and amateur sleuthing.
But Somyot said "90%" of calls from the public turned out to be false leads.
He added that lack of biometric data for visitors coming to and from Thailand had also made it harder to track potential suspects. – Thanaporn Promyamyai, AFP / Rappler.com