Thailand’s national police chief said Tuesday that authorities are now certain that last month’s deadly bombing at a Bangkok shrine was related to the trafficking of Uighur Muslims from China to Turkey. Tomorrow, the Thai police will send another team to Kuala Lumpur to gather more information on three people detained by the Malaysian police over links with a group of suspects responsible for the bomb attacks in central Bangkok on August 17.
It was the first time Thai police have formally referenced the Uighurs in relation to the case, after issuing a retraction of a mention of the group over the weekend.
On Tuesday, Somyot also elaborated on a possible motive, suggesting that in addition to being angry that the human trafficking network was broken up, the perpetrators were upset at the repatriation. The bombing killed 20 people, the majority of them Chinese tourists, raising fears of a link to militants or supporters of the Uighurs, ethnic Turkic-speaking Muslims, who say they face heavy persecution in their native Xinjiang.
Analysts say Thailand is keen to avoid naming Uygurs for economic and diplomatic reasons.
After General Somyot made the comments, Thailand’s military ruler Prayuth Chan-ocha still urged caution in linking the attack to Uighurs.
Uighurs have close ties to Turkey, where many nationalists regard them as part of a broad family of ethnic Turks spread across Eurasia. Chinese visitors are a linchpin of the tourist industry, and Beijing remains one of the increasingly isolated Thai junta’s few worldwide allies.
The recent arrests of two suspects of unknown nationality and warrants issued for a handful of others is consistent with this narrative.
One of the two men in custody, Yusufu Mieraili, was seized with a Chinese passport that gave a Xinjiang birthplace. One of them was captured at an apartment on the outskirts of Bangkok where police also discovered bomb-making material, and was in possession of a fake Turkish passport, police said. “Most of stuff in that room was there before he arrived”.
“The Thai authorities destroyed or obstructed their human-trafficking businesses”, Thai police chief Somyot Poompanmoung said yesterday, explaining the apparent motive for the attack.
Chakthip refused to speak to the media before his departure, other than saying that he “will return on Thursday”.
On Monday, Thai police spokesman Gen. Prawut Thavornsiri told reporters that Abdurahman Abudusataer, nicknamed Ishan, had left Thailand for Bangladesh on the eve of the bombing.
The Vietnamese Embassy in Thailand has repeatedly warned Vietnamese nationals not to illegally stay and work in the country.
Following the investigation, Thai authorities have tightened security and restricted the renewal of travel visas for foreigners at borders.
“We have not officially received any information about this subject from Thailand”, Tanju Bilgic said in a weekly press briefing yesterday in Ankara, Turkey, according to Reuters.