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Thailand Releases Sketch of Bombing Suspect

  • Steve Herman
  • VOA News

Thai police released this sketch of the bombing suspect August 19, 2015.

Thai police released this sketch of the bombing suspect August 19, 2015.

Thai authorities have issued an arrest warrant and released a sketch of a man they believe could be responsible for a bombing that killed at least 22 people at a Bangkok shrine.

Police Chief Somyot Poompanmoung said Wednesday that the bomber was likely acting as part of a network, but have not yet established his motives or nationality.

"He didn't do it alone, for sure. It's a network," Somyot said Wednesday, two days after the blast at the Erawan shrine that rattled the capital city.

The sketch released by authorities was of a young man with black shaggy hair, stubble, and round, plastic-framed glasses. Officials said he could be Thai or foreign.

A man wearing a yellow T-shirt and carrying a backpack is seen walking near the Erawan shrine, where a bomb blast killed 22 people on Monday, in Bangkok, Thailand in this handout still image taken from closed-circuit television (CCTV) footage, released by

A man wearing a yellow T-shirt and carrying a backpack is seen walking near the Erawan shrine, where a bomb blast killed 22 people on Monday, in Bangkok, Thailand in this handout still image taken from closed-circuit television (CCTV) footage, released by

Reward offered

Authorities are offering a $28,000 reward for information leading to the suspect's capture.

Grainy security camera footage appeared to show a slender, young man with unkempt dark hair and a yellow shirt leave a backpack under a bench and calmly walk away from the scene shortly before the blast.

"I'd like to tell the bomber that if he wants to be safe, then he should turn himself in and officials will find a way to protect him," Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha told reporters Wednesday.​

A police spokesman later said two other men, one seen wearing red and another wearing white in the CCTV video, are also suspects in the attacks.

Thai Buddhist monks arrive at the Erawan Shrine at Rajprasong intersection in Bangkok, Thailand, Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2015.

Thai Buddhist monks arrive at the Erawan Shrine at Rajprasong intersection in Bangkok, Thailand, Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2015.

Shrine reopens

Monks led prayers and residents left flowers and other tributes at the open-air Hindu shrine, which officially reopened to the public Wednesday.

Local resident Kawait Nunthakunatip, who was passing by on Monday just 20 minutes before the fatal explosion, said she is happy to see it re-opened so quickly.

​“I think it’s a good idea because people want to pay respects to the shrine," she said. "This is a very popular shrine in Thailand, in Bangkok. Tourists come here a lot.”

Those killed in the explosion include at least six Thais, five Malaysians, three Chinese, one Singaporean, one Philippine national and two Hong Kong residents, a reflection of the shrine’s popularity among Asian tourists.

“It feels so weird to know that so many people have died here and so many have been injured and still laying, trying to fight for their lives," Danish tourist Maja Brash said.

The shrine is located on one of the capital’s busiest intersections, across the street from Bangkok’s police headquarters.

The city’s two elevated train lines both pass above the shrine, while a steady stream of tourists and worshippers make offerings and take photos throughout the day.

The Erawan shrine in Bangkok, reopened after being the site of a bombing, Aug. 19, 2015. (Steve Herman/VOA News)

The Erawan shrine in Bangkok, reopened after being the site of a bombing, Aug. 19, 2015. (Steve Herman/VOA News)

'Worst incident'

No one has claimed responsibility for the attack, which Prime Minister Prayuth has said is "the worst incident that has ever happened in Thailand."

"The ongoing attempts at destruction might be politically motivated, targeting the economy, tourism for whatever reason," he said Tuesday in a televised address. "The government will work to find those perpetrators and bring justice upon any networks involved as soon as possible.”

The city of over 6 million remains on edge, especially after another explosion went off Tuesday near a transit station in Bangkok’s riverside.

Police said the small device was thrown from a bridge.

CCTV footage showed it falling into the water before it detonated, sending water high into the air but causing no injuries.

The fence near the Erawan shrine, blasted outward by the bomb explosion. (Steve Herman/VOA News)

The fence near the Erawan shrine, blasted outward by the bomb explosion. (Steve Herman/VOA News)

Impact

The economic impact is already being felt. The Thai baht has slumped to a six-year low against the U.S. dollar. Tour operators are confirming immediate cancellations by those too frightened to travel to the kingdom.

While Thai authorities said they have not confirmed who was behind the attack, they did not rule out a link with the country’s turbulent domestic politics.

The shrine’s location is close to areas that have been occupied over the years by different political factions opposing the ruling government.

In 2010, government opponents occupied the area for weeks until the army violently pushed them out, which led to several deaths and arson attacks on nearby shopping centers.

The area was again occupied by another group of anti-government demonstrators in 2014, which led to the removal of the government led by Yingluck Shinawatra and then the military coup.

For the past year, Thailand’s military government has banned protests and suspended democracy, while insisting that the country is not yet ready for another election.

William Gallo contributed to this report from Washington.

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