Bangkok blast: Authorities defend quick cleanup

POLICE SPENT only 12 hours to collect evidence from the Erawan bomb site, sparking suspicion over their procedure. However, the Central Scientific Crime Detection Division insisted that no more than 12 hours was required to gather all necessary evidence for the investigation.

Pol Maj-General Tawatchai Mekprasetkul, chief of the division, said yesterday that the forensics team had collected the evidence efficiently, following the correct procedures. He said that critics did not have enough knowledge of their measures.

National police chief General Somyot Poompanmuang backed Tawatchai, and insisted that the evidence team had done their job and followed normal procedure.

Criticism alleging a rushed evidence-collection procedure was brought to the public's notice by British Broadcasting Corp (BBC) journalist Jonathan Head, who found ball bearings and shrapnel at the bomb site on Thursday.

After the explosion on Monday evening, police sealed off the area to help the injured, check for other bombs and collect evidence. However, by noon the following day, traffic resumed, and the Erawan Shrine was reopened on Wednesday.

Tawatchai said that immediately after the blast scene was secured at around 8pm, the forensic team began collecting evidence until 1am and then resumed at 6am on Tuesday until the job was done by noon. It took about 12 hours, he said.

"The police has been following the procedure of collecting remaining evidence from the scene. We split into two teams - Explosive Ordnance Disposal [EOD] group to collect bomb evidence and a forensics team to gather information on the bomb suspect. The two teams worked together and we are sure that not a single clue has been left out," he explained.

"Those complaining about this do not understand the forensic teams' work procedure."

As for the shrapnel and ball bearings found by Head, they could be part of something else that blew up in the explosion.

"It was big blast, so a lot of scrap from the explosion flew all around. The police have only chosen what is useful as evidence in the case," he said.

Assistant national police chief Lt-General Prawut Thavornsiri also said that he had already taken the evidence found by Head and passed it on to the EOD team for inspection, adding that anything found by anybody at the scene should be handed to police immediately.

As for the rushed clean-up, Prawut said this was because the area is a major tourist attraction and if the area is closed for too long, it will make people feel more unsafe and affect tourism.

Bangkok Governor Sukhumbhand Paribatra also said it was the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration's job to clean up the area as the police did not need to collect any more evidence.