BANGKOK — Police investigating last month’s bombing of Bangkok's Erawan Shrine now believe they already have their most wanted man in custody.
A day after officials played down reports Mohammed Bilaturk, aka Adem Karadag, confessed to being the “Yellow Shirt Man," several top officials today went on the record to say they believe they are one and the same. At the same time a report was leaked by investigators showing a man purported to be Bilaturk in Lumpini Park minutes after the blast.
Among top brass suggesting Bilaturk’s key role in the attack was Police Maj. Gen. Sriwarah Rangsipramnakul, commander of Bangkok police, who today said he's confident Bilaturk is the bomber.
"Yesterday I didn't have clear information yet, but based on interrogation information obtained at around 9pm last night, I can now confirm that Adem Karadag or Bilal Mohammed [sic] is the yellow-shirted man."
To lend weight to the claim, the leaked police report shows a man walking through Lumpini Park minutes after the blast, that due to numerous, entirely circumstantial elements, appears to pick up the trail of the Erawan Shrine bomber as he enters the park, changes clothing and walks out.
Royal Thai Police chief Somyot Pumpanmuang said this evening he’s convinced Bilaturk is the same man seen in the park’s CCTV footage.
“One of the pieces of evidence is CCTV footage in front of a restroom in Lumpini Park. It shows the grey-shirted man, which I believe to be Mr. Bilaturk. I think I don’t have to explain this any further. From the news that the media present, it should be clear already.”
It was his opinion the man "really looks like" Bilaturk, he added.
Although he believes Bilaturk is the shrine bomber and in the man in the video, Somyot stopped short of declaring the shrine bomber is the man in the video.
In the police report there is no clear evidence indicating the man seen is Bilaturk.
Leaked police report outlines route taken by bombing suspect through Lumpini Park about 20 minutes after the bombing of the Erawan Shrine on 17 Aug.
‘Grey Shirt Man’
In a series of grainy, low-quality images taken from security cameras, the man identified in the report as “the perpetrator,” enters Lumpini Park from Gate 5 near Ratchadamri Road and walks into a park toilet at 7:04pm.
That’s six minutes after the yellow-shirted suspect was last seen on a motorcycle taxi about 150 meters away, heading toward the park.
Four minutes later, according to the narrative set forth in the report, he emerges from the toilet and continues walking south through the park toward Rama IV Road.
Again the links are circumstantial, but the man seen in the images holds a similar looking phone and blue plastic bag in the same hands as those seen carried minutes earlier by the suspected bomber.
An additional image from police in Min Buri is said to show the man inside a 7-Eleven at 9:06pm.
Left: From CCTV image of the 'Yellow Shirt Man' moments after he left a backpack in the capital's Erawan Shrine at left. Right: From CCTV image of a man seen later in Bangkok's Lumpini Park
Leaked police report claims to show the man enter a Lumpini Park restroom 22 minutes after a bomb exploded 17 Aug. at Bangkok's Erawan Shrine.
Military Warrants Sought for ‘Murder’
At 6pm this evening police asked a military court in Bangkok to approve a fresh set of warrants for all 15 suspects to date, including Bilaturk, with a new charge of premeditated murder attached to each warrant.
Police officials said that on Wednesday night, Bilaturk confessed to being the bomber, but said they want more evidence.
Bilaturk's lawyer, Chuchart Kanpai, denied again today that his client had confessed, according to DPA. He's previously said Bilaturk, a naturalized Turkish citizen from China's Xinjiang district, did not enter Thailand until 24 Aug. and was uninvolved in the attack.
Asked to comment on Bilaturk’s alleged confession, Somyot this evening said that because it came during interrogation, it would not be be good enough for court without additional evidence.
The reliance of Thai police on confessions has been under heightened scrutiny since they were accused of using torture to obtain one last year in another high-profile case in the kingdom. Two Myanmar men currently on trial for the 2014 murders of two Britons on Koh Tao said police tortured them into admitting the crime. They are widely considered as scapegoats for a police force that failed to execute a competent investigation.
Somyot referenced this in his comments this evening.
“It’s a technique many defendants use. They confess in the interrogation process and retract it in the court, and they will claim that officers coerced their confessions, or that officers assaulted them, as you have seen from many news, which is untrue, because this is no longer the era that police can do something like that,” he said. “It’s outdated.”
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