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Thai Police Arrest Another Suspect In Bombing


On the border between Thailand and Cambodia yesterday, police arrested a man. The Thai police took the man's fingerprints, and they now say his fingerprints match those found elsewhere on bomb-making equipment.


The equipment, in turn, was seized as police investigate a bombing in Bangkok. The blast killed 20 people. So police now have a suspect, but it's not clear if they think he was the bomber.

INSKEEP: Nor is it clear who was behind the attack on a busy market. Michael Sullivan reports.

MICHAEL SULLIVAN, BYLINE: At least two men have been arrested so far, identified by authorities as foreigners, but neither identified by name or nationality. A half-dozen arrest warrants have been issued as well - all but one for foreigners, including the Turkish husband of a Thai woman from the mainly Muslim south of the country. A warrant for her arrest was issued over the weekend. Thai officials aren't saying officially what the motive was for the attack, but several have suggested the men arrested are part of a people-smuggling network. And speculation is growing the bombing may be connected with Thailand's decision to deport more than 100 Muslim minority Uyghurs to China in July.

ZACHARY ABUZA: Boy, they've been so resistant to actually calling this what it is - international terrorism motivated by a group from overseas trying to hit Thailand for its actions against the Uyghur community.

SULLIVAN: Southeast Asia security analyst Zachary Abuza says says the Thais are reluctant to call it terrorism because they think it'll be bad for tourism. And, he says...

ABUZA: ...These guys were not operating on their own. Even just for logistics, they needed locals.

SULLIVAN: Locals who might've been part of a human smuggling ring, locals sympathetic to the Uyghur cause, or both. In a country he calls a permissive environment for criminal groups to operate because of its easy visa policies and dependence on tourism, which accounts for at least 10 percent of Thai GDP, a country which he says has bred a sometimes cozy relationship between Thai officials and criminal gangs and not just local gangs.

ANTHONY DAVIS: In Bangkok, Pattaya, Phuket, Samui, in different towns in Thailand, organized crime - transnational organized crime is very much in business.

SULLIVAN: Anthony Davis is a security consultant and analyst with IHS Janes.

DAVIS: And in many cases - not necessarily all - but in many cases, that comes courtesy of corrupt officials, what you might call top cover like protection money which allows them to do business on an ongoing basis. Now, clearly in this case, this people-smuggling operation was very much part of a terrorist attack.

SULLIVAN: Davis seems confident traffickers were involved, but says we still don't know who planned the attack, and he says we may never know. He says he hopes that cozy accommodation, as he calls it, between some government officials and organized crime will now come to an end. But it's been in place for decades, he says, and won't go away quickly. He says he hopes the Bangkok bombing will put the issue squarely at the top of the national agenda. For NPR News, I'm Michael Sullivan in Chiang Rai. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Michael Sullivan is NPR's Senior Asia Correspondent. He moved to Hanoi to open NPR's Southeast Asia Bureau in 2003. Before that, he spent six years as NPR's South Asia correspondent based in but seldom seen in New Delhi.
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