Thai court indicts two for Erawan blast
Two men have been charged by the Thailand military court in connection with the bombing of Erawan shrine in Bangkok. The suspects Bilal Mohammed and Yusuf Mieraili, in custody for three months, have reportedly confessed to their roles in the blast. The two suspects, identified as ethnic Uighurs (from western China's Xinjiang region), have been indicted on 10 charges, including murder, but not terrorism.
A huge bomb explosion at Erawan Shrine in central Bangkok killed at least 22 people and wounded more than 120. Eight of the 22 victims in the bombing were from China, Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia. Thai police said the device that exploded was a pipe bomb wrapped in white cloth. Thailand's Defense Minister said the bombing "targeted foreigners...to damage tourism and economy."
Reacting to the bomb blast, Indian PM Narendra Modi tweeted "I strongly condemn the blast in Bangkok. My thoughts are with the families of the deceased. I pray for a speedy recovery of the injured." The United Nations tweeted that the Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon was shocked by the explosion in Bangkok and expressed his condolences to the people and the Government of Thailand.
Though Buddhism is the predominant religion in Thailand, there are many Hindu shrines in Bangkok and Erawan Shrine is the best known among them. Built in 1956, it is one of the Thai capital's top tourist attractions. The shrine houses a golden statue of Phra Phrom, the Thai representation of Brahma, the Hindu god of creation.
Thailand has a long-running insurgency in its Muslim-majority southern provinces which claimed thousands of lives over the past decade. Bomb attacks are commonplace for it. Events of the country's recent history also suggest that the blast might be linked to the tussle for power between military and 'Red Shirts' inspired by former PM Thaksin Shinawatra. Low-level bombings have been a feature of these conflicts.
The 'Red Shirts' are a grassroot network of rural and urban poor that are loyal to former Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and her self-exiled brother, Thaksin Shinawatra, a populist politician who was also a Prime Minister previously.
In Dec 2013, the then PM Yingluck Shinawatra dissolved the House of Representatives and scheduled elections for 2014. In May 2014, Thailand's constitutional court nullified the election and removed Yingluck from the caretaker office. She was replaced by her deputy. On 22 May 2014, Thai military led by General Prayut Chan-o-cha launched a coup against the caretaker government and established the 'junta' to govern.
Thailand's Junta Chief and PM Prayut Chan-o-cha said that the authorities are looking for a suspect identified from the CCTV footage in the unprecedented Bangkok bomb blast. He called the bombing the "worst ever attack". The junta chief also added that the suspect was believed to be from an "an anti-government group based in Thailand's northeast"- the heartland of the country's Red shirt movement.
In August, CCTV video taken from shrine area showed a man in yellow shirt leaving a backpack near a bench at the shrine, just before the explosion. Another video showed a different man kicking a bag into the canal near the blast. On 29 Aug, Thai police detained a foreign man as their first suspect and a second suspect was detained on 1 Sep.
Despite the arrest and indictment of two suspects in relation to the Erawan blast, the motive for the bombing still remains unclear.