Thai man wanted for Bangkok blasts still in country

Police believe that the man wanted for several explosions in Bangkok over the last few years is still in Thailand, but deny reports that the suspect is being protected by an influential figure in Kanchanaburi province.

"He must be in hiding somewhere in the country," police spokesman Lt-General Prawut Thavorsiri said yesterday in reference to Yongyut Pobkaew, who is also known as Aod Payungwong.

Yongyut is not just implicated in the August bombings in Bangkok, but also in two other blasts that hit the capital in 2014 and 2010.

Prawut said police were trying to track Yongyut down, adding that though they don't know exactly where this suspect might be hiding, he could say for sure that Yongyut is not being protected by any influential figure in the border province of Kanchanaburi as suggested by some news reports.

"These claims are groundless," he said.

The August 17 bomb explosion at the Erawan Shrine killed 20 people and injured more than 100 others, and another blast took place near the Sathorn Pier the following day, but did not cause any casualties.

The authorities have since issued arrest warrants for many suspects, including foreigners. Yongyut is among the few Thais wanted for the attacks.

So far, two foreigners have been detained - Mieraili Yusufu and Bilal Mohammed, who was previously identified as Adem Karadag.

Mieraili implicated Abudusataer Abudureheman (Ishan), who he said has already fled Thailand.

Prawut said yesterday that the police would check with the Turkish Embassy again to see if Abudureheman had travelled to Turkey.

In the wake of the recent blasts, Immigration Police were widely criticised as Mieraili said he was able to travel in and out of Thailand several times by paying bribes. After his arrest, several immigration officers in a border province were slapped with immediate transfer orders.

Meanwhile, acting Immigration Office commander Pol Maj-General Nattorn Prohsunthorn yesterday unveiled a plan to improve immigration services and has given the chiefs of all immigration units a week to scan their agencies and take action against anyone who violates the law or takes bribes.

"Offenders must face both disciplinary and criminal action," Nattorn said.

He added that once the scan has been completed, the chiefs of all immigration units must submit written reports to clear any lingering doubts about immigration work.

"I will take the media along when inspecting immigration units," he said, adding that he would also hold a videoconference every month with immigration chiefs.

"They will not be required to travel to Bangkok to attend conferences. This way, they should be able to closely supervise their subordinates," he said.

He also vowed to crack down on foreigners who have overstayed their visas or are members of transnational crime gangs.

He said he would soon arrange meetings between Thai immigration officials and police attaches from different countries so they can develop ties and foster closer co-operation.