BANGKOK — A bomb scare briefly broke out at Bangkok’s military court after a man with a large backpack wandered in one day before the two men accused of staging last month’s bomb attack were scheduled to appear.
Security footage shows the unidentified man, described by military officers as khaek khao or “White Arab,” entering the court Friday afternoon and walking to the fourth floor, the rooftop, the third floor and finally exiting the building after having spent around 10 minutes there. His nationality and ethnicity are unknown.
It wasn’t until Saturday that anyone noticed the man’s wanderings, the same day two men – Mohammad Bilal and Yusufu Mieraili – were brought to the court and formally charged with premeditated murder and other offenses for their alleged roles in the 17 Aug. bombing of the Erawan Shrine, which killed 20 people and injured more than 150.
The military court is located a few hundred meters from Bangkok’s heavily visited Grand Royal Palace, and at least one official said he could have just been a tourist looking to satisfy a basic need.
“He may be a tourist …. People who walk past the building occasionally stop by and ask to use our restroom,” Vice Admiral Kritsada Charoenpanit said yesterday.
Mystery man looks for … something. He left without incident.
Security officers immediately ordered a sweep throughout the court to look for anything suspicious, but nothing was found, said Kritsada, deputy commander of the Staff Judge Advocate corps which runs the martial court.
"White Arab" is a term used by Thais to describe people they believe to be of Arab descent. The media has routinely described both bombing suspects as "White Arabs."
An investigation would be undertaken to find out how and why the stranger managed to walk past a security checkpoint and wander unchallenged throughout the building, Kritsada added.
Asked whether the military court could be targeted by a terror network because the two suspects in last month’s attack will stand trial there, Kritsada replied, “We are not concerned about that.”
Nevertheless military officers from the Staff Judge Advocate are working with police officers from a local police station to identify the man seen in the CCTV “for the sake of caution,” Kritsada told reporters.
Chanasongkram Police Station later reported back that the unidentified man was most likely a foreign tourist, said Maj. Gen. Kongcheep Tantrapanit, a spokesman for the Ministry of Defense.
“Based on the police inspection of CCTV footage, the man looked like a tourist,” Kongcheep said today. “He walked from Thammasat University. He continued on his way until he reached the military court.”
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