Thai junta broadcast unrelated suicide vest picture


BANGKOK - Thailand's junta came under scrutiny Sunday after mistakenly showing an unrelated picture of a suicide vest during a nationally televised broadcast announcing the arrest of a foreign man in connection with last week's deadly Bangkok shrine bombing.

In an embarrassing u-turn officials later said the vest was not among the items found at the suspect's flat and warned people not to share the shot online.

It is the latest blunder to hit an investigation that has received criticism over how quickly investigators searched and cleared up the blast site, as well as confusing and sometimes contradictory statements from senior officers and junta officials.

Police on Saturday charged a foreign man after a raid on an apartment in Bangkok's eastern outskirts. Investigators say the man was found with bomb-making equipment linked to the 17 August blast, which killed 20 people and wounded scores more.

All Thai television channels ran a broadcast at 6pm (1100 GMT) on Saturday which featured a spokesman from the Royal Thai Police and a spokesman for the National Council for Peace and Order - the official name for the junta.

As official Colonel Winthai Suvaree spoke, images from inside the suspect's flat flashed up on the screen including pictures of the man surrounded by officers, a close portrait of the man and items laid out on a rug.

Another picture was then briefly broadcast showing a vest covered in bulging pockets connected by wires, held up by a hand wearing a blue surgical glove. Winthai did not talk about or make reference to the pictures.

The picture of the vest was widely shared on social media, but late Saturday police took to Twitter to say the photo of the vest was not from the flat.

"The picture has nothing to do with the bombing. It is not official," police wrote on their Twitter account @PoliceSpokesmen.

"We would like to ask people who published that picture to stop their actions because it might bring concern to society and it could be in breach of computer legislation," they added in another tweet.

National police spokesman Prawut Thavornsiri, who was the police official in the national broadcast, also tweeted: "The picture that you are putting in your messages might damage the country so please could you stop because the country has already been very bruised." Neither account explained how the picture made it into the broadcast.

Prawut and junta officials did not respond to AFP's requests for comment early Sunday.