Police link the Erawan bombing to people trafickers

A Thai police photo showing an unidentified suspect in Bangkok on Saturday. Police say the man is being held for being allegedly involved with the bomb attack, at the Hindu Erawan shrine on 17 August. Photograph: Thai Royal Police/EPA

Thai police have said that a bomb attack at the Erawan shrine in Bangkok, which killed 20 people two weeks ago, may have been launched by a people-smuggling gang in response to a crackdown on the trade. The claim comes after security forces widened their search for suspects following the arrest of a foreign national who was found with bomb-making materials and fake passports on the outskirts of Bangkok.

Police spokesman Prawut Thavornsiri said authorities believed the man was part of an organised crime group which sold counterfeit documents to illegal immigrants. “They [the gang] are unsatisfied with police arresting illegal entrants,” he told Thailand’s Channel 3. “It’s a network that fakes nationalities and sends them [illegal migrants] on to third countries,” he added, without explaining how police had come to this conclusion.

Police have charged the 28-year-old man with possessing illegal explosives, although they have not revealed his name or nationality. The man’s neighbours say he lived with another foreigner. Thavornsiri said the man was believed to be part of a network that carried out the attack as well as a smaller explosion that caused no injuries one day later. “Our preliminary investigation shows that he is related to both bombings,” he said.