Bangkok blast suspect says not paid for shrine bomb

PHOTO: Reuters

The prime suspect in the Erawan Shrine bombing yesterday went back on his previous denials and admitted to his lawyer that he planted the deadly bomb, which killed 20 people and injured more than 100 others on August 17.

"But he says he was not paid for it. So, I personally believe he might have done it to repay a personal favour," said Chuchart Kanphai, the suspect's lawyer.

Chuchart yesterday met with his client, Bilal Mohammed, for more than two hours. The suspect, also known as Adem Karadag, had up to now stuck to his story that he was not the yellow-shirted person caught on a surveillance camera leaving a backpack full of explosives at Erawan Shrine.

Chuchart said Bilal confessed to him that he had placed the bag containing the explosives at the site. He said he was acting in accordance to the instructions of Abdullah Abdullahman, who had been staying at the Poon Anan Apartment in Bangkok's Nong Chok district.

Bilal was arrested at the same apartment on August 29 and bomb-making materials were also found. He and Abdullah stayed in different rooms on the same floor.

For the first time since the bombing, it is now clear what role Abdullah played in the attack. On September 7, a warrant was issued for the arrest of Abdullah along with a sketch artist's drawing based on a description provided by Bilal.

Chuchart said Bilal had told him he did not know any of the other suspects wanted for the blast, apart from Abdullah.

"Bilal came to Thailand on August 14," Chuchart said.

The lawyer said Bilal was sticking to his story that he planned to travel on to Malaysia. But the suspect has already backtracked from his previous claim that he was a Turkish citizen, Chuchart said.

"He now tells me that he is an Uighur. Though born in Turkey, he had lived in Urunchi, China," the lawyer said.

He added that Bilal had asked for an Uighur interpreter because he could not speak English or Turkish fluently.

"He has said he wants to contact his relatives in Turkey," Chuchart said.

According to the lawyer, relevant embassies have indicted it is difficult to verify the identity of Bilal given that so many people use exactly the same name.

Chuchart said he has changed his defence strategy and is now planning to fight Bilal's case by asking for leniency on the grounds that the suspect made a confession.

The authorities have arrested two suspects in connection with the bomb blast. The other suspect in detention was named as Mieraili Yusufu.

Metropolitan Police Commissioner Pol Lt-General Srivara Ransibrahmanakul yesterday confirmed reports that Aod Payungwong, also known as Yongyut Pobkaew, who is also wanted for the Erawan Shrine blast, was a former red-shirt guard.

"His name appears in the investigation report for his violation of the state-of-emergency decree in 2010. We also have a clear picture of him," the senior police officer said.

According to Srivara, Yongyut has been prosecuted in nine cases already. Last year, he was also wanted for crimes related to explosives.

Pol Maj-General Chayaphon Chatchaidej, Metropolitan Police Bureau deputy spokesman, said witnesses had implicated Yongyut in the Erawan Shrine blast.

"They had seen him with Wanna [Suansan] at the Maimuna Garden apartment," Chayaphon said.

Wanna is another of the suspects wanted for the deadly attack. Witnesses said she had rented rooms for many of the other suspects.

Pol Colonel Manop Sukhonthanapat, superintendent of Talat Phlu Police Station, said Yongyut had provided an address when he was arrested for his previous crimes; however, a probe has found that as many as 27 other people live at the same address.

An informed source said officials checked on the house that Yongyut had previously identified as his address in Ayutthaya province, but the current residents insisted that they did not know him.

Pol General Chakthip Chaijinda, the incoming national police chief, yesterday said police were paying close attention to the technique used to make the August 27 bomb and the detonating cord used.

"They are unique. But the detonation is reminiscent to what we found in the deep South," Chakthip said.

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