Suspects linked to bomb attacks in Bangkok last month will face trial in civilian criminal courts - not a military court, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said yesterday.
Prayut said the cases were serious for both Thai and foreign suspects allegedly involved in the incidents and the justice process had to be universally acceptable. Earlier, police reportedly planned to transfer the cases to the military court.
Meanwhile, tourism chiefs have reported an estimated loss of 1.33 million foreign tourists and potential income of Bt64 billion (S$2.5 billion) due to the deadly attack at the Erawan Shrine.
The Tourism and Sports Ministry said the dramas in Bangkok on August 17 and 18 led to many countries issuing travel warnings about the Kingdom. Economic impacts were expected to be most damaging in August and this month. If there are no further incidents, a recovery in the tourism industry is expected in the last quarter of this year.
The ministry said it would launch international media and promotional campaigns to restore confidence in Thailand and urge foreign visitors to come back from September to December this year.
The bomb blast at Ratchaprasong intersection in the heart of Bangkok on August 17 was described as the worst attack on Thai soil in recent memory, with 20 killed and more than 100 injured. The following day, a second bomb went off near Sathorn Pier but caused no casualties.
To date, authorities have arrested two suspects. They were identified as Mieraili Yusufu, a Chinese national of Uighur ethnicity, and Adem Karadag, who carries what appears to be a fake Turkish passport.
The alleged mastermind, Abu Dustar Abdulrahman or 'Izan', is reported to have flown out via Suvarnabhumi Airport on August 16. His air ticket showed he was headed for Bangladesh.
National Police Commissioner Pol General Somyot Poompanmuang said yesterday the recent Bangkok bombings clearly involved foreign elements. Authorities were still verifying reports that money had been transferred from overseas to fund the bomb attacks.
The Turkish embassy, when contacted by The Nation, declined to make any comment yesterday. Sources said officials from the embassy had taken part in the interrogation of the two suspects in custody.
Mieraili, 26, was yesterday brought to two apartments and a chemical shop in Bangkok to re-enact his alleged crime. He was allegedly the bomb-maker.
According to informed sources, Mieraili confessed that he had shared the same apartment with Karadag, where a huge amount of bomb-making materials were found on August 26.
Ongoing investigations also reveal that Mieraili is close to Izan and knows the suspect seen in a blue shirt, wanted for causing the blast near Sathorn Pier.
According to sources, Mieraili formerly studied at Xinjiang Medical University but failed to pass the exam needed to secure a degree in medical technology. He then left China's Xinjiang, heading to Guangzhou and then Malaysia.
"He sold cell-phones in Ramkhamhaeng area [in Bangkok] for about six months," a source said, adding that an Internet-browsing history showed Mieraili also searched for a place to study in Turkey via the Internet.
Several organisations, including the Muslim Attorney Centre Foundation, will today hold talks to arrange lawyers for the bomb suspects.
"We still haven't received a lawyers' request from the suspects. However, as we are a foundation to help fellow Muslims and have the experience on the similar cases in the Far South, we are ready to provide legal assistance to the suspects," foundation secretary- general Sithipong Chantharawiroj said.
His foundation will meet today with the Sheikhul Islam Office, Muslim Attorney Centre Foundation, Thai Lawyers for Human Rights Centre and NGOs who work with Uighur migrants.
Sithipong said suspects connected to the recent bombings do not have a lawyer yet.
Meanwhile, Somyot said a taxi driver had aroused police suspicion because he gave confusing statements regarding a ride he gave to a bomb suspect.
"He apparently tried to hide some information. Initially, he said he didn't know the foreign suspect. But evidence suggests he had provided services to the foreigner several times," Somyot said.
He said the taxi driver could face legal action, even though he was not directly involved in the plot to stage the bomb attacks.