BANGKOK — Any suspects arrested in connection to the Mother’s Day bomb and arson attacks will be tried by the military, the top police investigator in the case said Wednesday.
The announcement underscored the seemingly marginalized role of the police force in an investigation in which the military is taking the lead, a divided effort illustrated Tuesday when the same police commander backtracked on claims one perpetrator had been arrested.
“I will personally inspect all case files and all requests for arrest warrants to the courts,” police Gen. Srivara Ransibrahmanakul, the head of the investigation team, told reporters. “All case files will be under the jurisdiction of the military courts.”
Four people were killed when a series of explosions and firebombs struck seven provinces over the course of Thursday and Friday. The latter date marked Her Majesty the Queen’s Birthday and Mother’s Day in Thailand.
Since the armed forces seized power from an elected government in May 2014, military courts are given authority to try civilians in cases the junta deems matters of national security.
This includes suspects charged for terror attacks, such as the bombing of Erawan Shrine in Bangkok one year ago today, which killed 20 people.
Srivara also told reporters the court has only approved arrest warrants for two suspects for the Mother’s Day bombings so far: Chiang Mai native Sakarin Karuehat and Narathiwat resident Ahama Lengha.
Sakarin is being held on an army base for interrogation, while Ahama’s whereabouts are unknown.
Angkhana Neelaphaijit, a member of the National Human Rights Commission, said she’s concerned by the military’s detention of Sakarin and his lack of communication with lawyers or his family.
“No matter in what situation, suspects have rights,” Angkhana said. “Otherwise, if the state detains and holds people at any location they please, without telling their relatives, it risks becoming forced disappearance. Therefore, security officers must be careful and transparent.”
Angkhana said her agency has not yet received any complaints of human rights abuses regarding Sakarin at the military base so far, and it would only attempt to inspect his the conditions of his detention if his family requested the commission do so.
An army officer at the base where Sakarin is being held said he’s doing fine.
“He’s in good health. We chat with him good naturedly,” said a high-ranking officer at the 41st Army Circle base, who refused to give his name because he’s not authorized to speak to the media. “He’s just a person of interest. We are not treating him as suspect.”
The officer also denied the assertion made by deputy police chief Sriwara that the military is keeping him in the dark about Sakarin.
“It was police who asked the court for the warrant. We only took care of the procedure,” the officer said. “If the police didn’t seek a court warrant for him, we wouldn’t have gone there to arrest him. Soldiers only follow orders from law enforcement officials.”