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Thai police detains pol activist in connection with blasts


Bangkok : A political activist has been detained in connection with the string of coordinated blasts that have rocked Thailand, killing four people, with police indicating that the attacks were an act of “local sabotage”.

There were unconfirmed reports yesterday that two suspects had been detained for questioning following the spate of low intensity bomb blasts that killed four people and injured 35, including at least 10 foreigners, in five southern provinces — Hua Hin, Phuket, Phangnga, Trang and Surat Thani.

However, the only detention that has been confirmed by police is that of a 67-year-old political activist and former Constitution writer in the southern province of Trang.

Soldiers apprehended Prapas Rojanapithak at his house in Muang district while he was watching TV this morning.

He was taken to a police station and later to a military camp in Nakhon Si Thammarat, where he is being questioned, the Bangkok Post reported.

The arrest came under Section 44 order of the interim Constitution which gives the military power to summon, arrest or detain suspects in a range of security-related cases.

Police have ruled out international terrorism and said the campaign was an act of “local sabotage”.

Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) officers who analysed the blast sites have concluded that all the explosions were connected as the devices used in every attack were similar and mobile phones were used to trigger the blasts.

The bombs in each attack were packed with ball bearings, similar to bombs used in past political disputes and the explosion at Erawan Brahma Shrine on August 17 last year, the officers stated.

“We have collected DNA samples from the scenes of the blasts and the results should be known and sent to investigators responsible for each crime scene on Sunday. We hope to seek arrest warrants soon,” deputy police chief Pongsapat Pongcharoen was quoted as saying.

Based on the existing evidence, he said the violence did not look like an expansion of the secessionist campaign that has been concentrated in the muslim-dominated Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat as it rarely targets foreigners.

Senior officials of the military government also believe the attacks were political in nature and intended to discredit the regime.

Prapas was a member of the committee that drafted the 2007 Constitution following the military coup that overthrew former premier Thaksin Shinawatra.

However, Prapas joined 90 other southern academics and activists in signing a statement condemning the May 22, 2014, coup that overthrew the government of Thaksin’s sister, Yingluck Shinawatra.

Meanwhile, security has been increased at Suvarnabhumi international airport here following the bombings and arson attacks in the south.

Police, soldiers and sniffer dogs have been deployed at the international airport in Samut Prakan province since last night to join airport security officers in patrolling the airport and thoroughly checking passengers’ luggage and belongings.

“This is not a terrorist attack. It is just local sabotage that is restricted to limited areas and provinces,” national police deputy spokesman Piyapan Pingmuang told a press conference here.

“Thailand has no religious, racial or territorial conflicts. We don’t have the presence of Islamic State. The incident was just the turbulence of national peace and order. But at this stage, it is also hard to pinpoint whether it is linked to the Constitution referendum or politics,” the spokesman said.

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