SURAT THANI — The military has detained six suspects in connection with the car bomb that exploded in a shopping mall on the southern island of Koh Samui last month, a high-ranking military officer said.
Col. Pramote Prom-in, a spokesperson of the counter-insurgency Internal Security Operations Command (ISOC), said today that four of the suspects were detained under martial law, which grants the military sweeping powers to conduct arrests and searches without court warrants. Martial law has been imposed over the southern provinces of Pattani, Yala, and Narathiwat for the past nine years to combat the Islamic separatist violence that broke out in the region in early 2004.
Wreckage from the car bomb that exploded in Central Festival Samui shopping mall on 10 April, 2015.
Col. Pramote said the six suspects, who are residents of Yala, are being interrogated for their suspected connection to the car bomb that was planted in Central Festival Samui shopping mall on 10 April. The car used in the attack was also from Yala, officers say, which is around 500km south of Koh Samui, a popular tourist island.
The blast injured seven civilians, including a 12-year-old Italian girl.
Almost simultaneously, a fire broke out at Surat Thani Cooperative Store on the mainland, though no one was injured. Police say the store belongs to Suthep Thaugsuban, former deputy chairman of the Democrat Party and the leader of the street protests that sought to topple the government overthrown in the May 2014 coup.
Col. Pramote did not disclose where the suspects are being held. Under martial law, soldiers may detain individuals without charges for up to seven days. A report about the investigation into the bombing will be released to the public soon, he said.
"It is the duty of law enforcement officials to investigate the case," Col. Pramote said at the press conference, "They will explain about the case to the public in the future."
The officer also told reporters authorities have not yet determined the motive behind the twin attacks, saying "We have not ruled out any factor."
The entrace to a roadside restaurant in Surat Thani where men driving the car used in the bombing reportedly stopped for lunch on 10 April 2015.
A waiter at a roadside restaurant in Surat Thani told police today that he recognized the vehicle used in the bomb attack because the drivers stopped at his restaurant several hours prior to the blast.
According to police, the waiter at the restaurant, which sells halal food, said three men in their 20s and 30s spent approximately 40 minutes eating lunch at around 1:30 pm on 10 April, before heading north toward Koh Samui. The waiter reportedly police that the three men had "goatee beards" and did not conceal their faces.
Police say they are working on sketches of the suspects based on the waiter's account.
Car bombs are common in Muslim-dominated Yala and its neighboring provinces, where insurgents have been battling Thai authorities for the past decade. To date, no violence north of Songkhla province has been definitively traced to the secessionist movement.