BANGKOK — A taxi driver who reportedly picked up the lead suspect in last week’s Erawan Shrine bombing told the press today he’s confident the man was a foreigner.
Speaking to the media today while delivering his taxi for examination at the Office of Forensic Science, the driver said he picked up the yellow-shirted man police believe to be the bomber and dropped him off near Hua Lamphong Railway Station less than two hours before the bomb exploded, killing 20 people and injuring scores more at the shrine.
“As far as I can recall, his appearance and demeanor looked like a farang,” said the cabbie, who requested that his name be withheld.
CCTV footage released after the attack showed a yellow-shirted man walking to the shrine, putting down his backpack amid the crowd and walking away just minutes prior to the explosion.
The driver said he picked up the yellow-shirted man from Sala Daeng intersection in the Silom area between 3pm and 4pm on 17 Aug. He said the man spoke a few words in Thai with a foreign accent.
“When I picked him up, he acted normal. He didn’t say the words ‘Hua Lamphong’ clearly. It’s sounded like a farang speaking Thai,” said the driver. “When he got out, he paid the fare. He gave me a hundred baht bill. During the ride, he didn’t say anything. I didn’t notice if he had any belongings.”
Before reaching the destination, the man indicated he wanted to get out by saying "jod," or stop, again with an accent.
The driver was adamant about one thing: “I assure you, he’s not Thai.”
The CCTV footage and composite sketch of the suspect struck many Thais as Eurasian-looking, mostly due to his light skin. In Thailand, persons with lighter skin are often thought to be foreigners at first glance.
Several media agencies and possible witnesses also described the alleged bomber as khaek khao, which means “White Arab.”
However, police have yet to publicly conclude whether the suspect is indeed a foreigner.
The taxi driver added that he had given testimony to police officers at Lumpini Police Station and the Metropolitan Police Bureau.
The police investigation appears to have made little progress since the attack, with top officials acknowledging the perpetrator or perpetrators may have already fled the country.
The chief suspect was last known to be seen minutes after the attack riding back toward Sala Daeng, and most revelations have pertained to piecing together the suspect’s movements prior to the attack.
The taxi driver’s account unwinds the suspect’s trail that night back to Sala Daeng, where the taxi took him near the train station. After that he is believed to have taken a tuk-tuk from a location a five-minute walk away to the scene of the crime.
Placing him back near Sala Daeng fits a pattern of activity and possible sightings in the area of lower Silom and Sathorn roads, where several witnesses said they gave rides to a man shown to them in immigration and passport photos by investigators between December and March.
Another man was seen walking down Sathorn Road on Monday night minutes after the blast to place something in the water near Sathorn Pier, where a device exploded the next afternoon.
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