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Friday, September 4

Bangkok: Repaired Brahma statue in Erawan Shrine re-consecrated today


But now repaired

A Brahmin priest anoints Phra Phrom, the Thai interpretation of the Hindu god Brahma, with holy water during wellness and prosperity ceremony in Bangkok, Thailand on Sept. 4, 2015. (AP / Sakchai Lalit via CTV)


Bangkok Erawan Shrine Bombing: Shawn Crispin's investigation

But first a few words about Shawn Crispin.

Nothing like being on a police watch list in Thailand to make one watchful

From The Diplomat's bio:

Shawn W. Crispin is Southeast Asia Columnist at The Diplomat based in Bangkok, Thailand, where he has worked as a journalist and editor for over 16 years. He received a Master’s Degree in Southeast Asian Studies and International Economics from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) in 1999.

Crispin was previously Bangkok Bureau Chief with the Far Eastern Economic Review and Wall Street Journal (Asia), where he reported widely on Southeast Asia’s economy, politics and security. Until recently he served as Southeast Asia Editor at Asia Times Online, where he wrote a regular column and developed an extensive network of contributors comprised of many of the world’s leading Southeast Asia-focused journalists, academics and analysts.

Crispin frequently makes public and private presentations to government agencies, independent think tanks, investment banks and major equity and hedge funds on Thailand’s national level politics. He also previously served as a special political risk consultant to the Control Risks Group, where he provided real time analysis on breaking political and security topics in Thailand.

Crispin currently serves as Senior Southeast Asia Representative to the Committee to Protect Journalists, a New York-based, non-partisan press freedom advocacy group. For the past decade, he has served as spokesperson, advocate and researcher on Southeast Asian press and Internet freedom.

Since 2002 Crispin has been on a fourth level police watch list in Thailand for his reporting on perceived as sensitive topics.


Exclusive: Who's Really Behind Thailand’s Erawan Shrine Bomb Blast?

The Diplomat’s Shawn Crispin conducts an in-depth investigation into the recent Erawan Shrine bombing.

By Shawn W. Crispin
September 04, 2015

While Thailand’s police claim success in apprehending and identifying foreign suspects in the country’s deadliest-ever bomb attack, national intelligence agencies are pursuing local actors as the likely masterminds behind the crime. Rather than an act of ideologically-driven international terrorism, as portrayed by security analysts and echoed in media reports, the lethal explosion was more likely an act of local commission, motivated by rising tensions between rival political and security force factions jockeying for position ahead of a high-stakes royal succession.

Foreign envoys, top government advisers, former high-ranking officials, and private investigators who spoke to The Diplomat on condition of anonymity all point toward probable rogue security force involvement in the sophisticated yet locally attuned August 17 blast. The pipe bomb killed 20 and injured over 125 at Bangkok’s Erawan religious shrine. Hidden by multiple layers of deniability, official obfuscation, and patchy police work, the local masterminds likely acted in coordination with foreign criminals with prior links to wayward security officials to execute the politically sensitive attack, the same sources said.

The recent arrests of two suspects of unknown nationality and warrants issued for a handful of others is consistent with this narrative. The arrests have raised as many questions as they have answered about a motive. A police spokesman said this week the suspects were linked to a human trafficking “syndicate” and that the bomb may have been a “revenge attack” against a recent crackdown on the trade. Under intense international pressure, since July Thai prosecutors have indicted 72 people, including state officials and a senior military officer, for having links to foreign-linked people smuggling networks active in Thailand.

The circumstances surrounding the arrests, like much of the police’s investigative work on the bombing, have strained credulity in light of the sophistication of the actual attack. The first unidentified suspect was captured in a rented room in a Bangkok suburb sitting calmly among piles of incriminating bomb-making materials and a stack of forged passports. The second was apprehended on the Thai-Cambodian border carrying a backpack apparently containing the same distinctive yellow T-shirt that the alleged bomber was seen wearing in CCTV footage at the shrine moments before the fatal blast.

Contributing to speculation of a cover-up, an image of a suicide vest broadcast on local TV reports of the first suspect’s arrest on Saturday was later retracted without explanation by police. Authorities threatened to file Computer Crime Act charges, punishable by imprisonment, against social media users who reposted or critically assessed the censored image. The lightning transfer on Tuesday of five immigration police officials based on the Cambodian border (who earlier accepted a bribe to allow the first suspect to enter Thailand without proper travel documents) has bolstered the narrative that the suspect had prior ties to wayward police. It’s unclear if police had any legal leverage against the suspects before their arrests.

Initial speculation that Islamic State or al-Qaeda orchestrated the attack has faded as neither terror group has claimed responsibility for the atrocity. Security analysts and media reports have instead linked the bomb to Thailand’s deportation in July of over 100 ethnic Uyghur Muslims to China. The theory is that a hybrid criminal-terror group staged the attack in revenge for their Turkic brethren’s mistreatment in Thai custody. Unconfirmed reports cited by diplomats indicate an unknown number of Uyghur detainees may have been shot and killed by Thai immigration police while protesting against their planned deportation to China.

There are holes in the theory, however, including high-level diplomatic doubts that Uyghurs could have so quickly hatched and executed such a sophisticated plot so soon after the deportations. China’s foreign ministry said days after the blast that Uyghurs were not behind the bomb, despite the deaths of five Chinese nationals and the collateral opportunity a joint investigation would offer for bilateral intelligence-sharing at a time Beijing seeks stronger strategic ties with Bangkok. That indicated to some that senior Thai officials privately told their Chinese counterparts that the bomb was a domestic affair that would be handled internally. Others note that both the Abhisit Vejjajiva and Yingluck Shinawatra governments deported smaller groups of Uyghurs without threat or retribution.

Factional Fault Lines

From a more inward-looking perspective, the blast’s timing was significant. The bomb was detonated a day before a contentious military and police reshuffle list was due for submission to the royal palace, and a day after the carefully choreographed “Bike for Mom” event had cast heir apparent Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn in a uniquely favorable light, pedaling comfortably among the Thai masses. Both events were impacted by the blast: the reshuffle list’s submission for the monarch’s endorsement was inexplicably delayed and altered after the attack, while promotion of the “Bike for Mom” campaign’s next planned biking events was overtaken on local news stations by bomb-related segments.

The now-public military and police reshuffle lists will consolidate Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and Defense Minister Prawit Wongsuwan’s power over security forces while further alienating a rival royalist faction. As with recent rotations led by Prayut, a former army commander who seized power in a May 2014 coup, this year’s list again gives promotional priority to Queen’s Guard over King’s Guard soldiers, capped by Queen’s Guard General Thirachai Nakwanich’s promotion to army commander. The factional divide, accentuated by what some analysts perceive as competitive visions for the royal succession, has contributed to sporadic counter-coup rumors since Prayut assumed the premiership.

Hours after the bombing, the King’s Guard’s 1st Cavalry Battalion in Bangkok issued alerts for ten other areas of the capital that were at potential risk, including both tourist and non-tourist areas. The alert indirectly presaged a botched second bomb attack the following day, when an unidentified assailant threw a bomb similar to the one planted at the Erawan shrine toward a crowded boat pier. That bomb detonated harmlessly in the Chao Phraya River. Reports on the elite military unit’s warning were inexplicably deleted the next day from local newspapers that had published it in their online editions.

The police, meanwhile, have seen their various underground interests sharply curtailed by Prayut’s anti-corruption drive. A junta reform proposal to depoliticize the force through the formation of a new “police ministry” has been strongly resisted by top cops, including outgoing national chief Pol .Gen. Somyot Poompanmoung. The new incoming chief, Pol. Gen. Chaktip Chaijinda, is eligible to serve in the role for five years, long enough to push reforms favored by Prayut and purge the police rank and file of anti-junta elements. Chaktip’s promotion bypassed Bangkok Metropolitan chief Sriwara Rangsipramanakul, who some believed was poised for the post after lifting legal pressure on Prayut for the military’s lethal crackdown on anti-government street protesters in 2010.

The bomb also impacted the country’s succession politics indirectly. Diplomats and analysts view the “Bike for Mom” campaign, replete with slick media placements, ubiquitous signboards, and a sing-song ditty in honor of Queen Sirikit, as the heir apparent camp’s blue-clad answer to Princess Sirindhorn’s extended 60-year birthday celebrations in April, which saw Thais uniformly don her royal color, purple. “Bike for Mom” astutely played on the rising popularity of biking among the Thai middle class, with a series of Vajiralongkorn-promoting participatory rides planned between August and King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s 88th birthday celebrations commence in early December.

Sources close to the palace said Vajiralongkorn left Thailand for Germany days after the bomb blast, raising questions about whether his camp will backpedal on the campaign for security reasons. At the same time, a royal foundation promoting rural uplift projects in the name of Bhumibol and Sirindhorn has sponsored a parallel bike ride from the country’s northern to southernmost tips to promote unity, goodwill, and loyalty, according to local language news reports and the royal foundation’s website. The yellow and purple-clad cyclists commenced their journey around a week after the bomb blast, the reports said.

Domestic Dimensions

Thai officials have consistently denied the bomb was an act of international terrorism, claims viewed by many as official spin to shield the crucial tourism industry from further fallout. Yet authorities have not presented a credible domestic motivation for the blast.

Tellingly, officials have shied from blaming ethnic Malay Muslim insurgents fighting for autonomy in the country’s southernmost region, despite recent indications the main rebel group, BRN-Coordinate, has started to target tourist areas outside of their three home provinces of Pattani, Yala, and Narathiwat. One well-placed source said a senior BRN leader asked him by phone on the night of the blast to tell Prayut that his group was not behind the bomb. 

Others have noted the bomb’s explosive force and ball bearing projectiles are inconsistent with BRN’s known bomb-making capabilities and modus operandi of low death toll attacks.

Nor have officials pointed toward self-exiled former premier Thaksin Shinawatra and his affiliated Red Shirt group. Days before the blast, Thaksin told his supporters at a speech made in Finland that they should oppose the military’s draft constitution, which he claimed runs against the will of the majority. Some saw the speech as a rally call for Red Shirt activists, dormant since the coup, to launch protest activities against military rule. A government spokesman hinted at Red Shirt involvement in the blast’s immediate aftermath, but there have been no subsequent signs the government is pursuing any links to Thaksin or his political camp. (Thaksin, who was in Germany the day after the blast, denied any involvement in an interview with an American researcher.)

That points instead to intra-government divisions. A security adviser with access to Thai intelligence reports says agents outside of the police are pursuing leads that indicate extensive Thai involvement in what appears on the surface to be a foreign-executed attack. Local intelligence cited by the adviser indicates that the plot was planned for over one year, before the Uyghur deportations but likely after the military’s May 2014 takeover. The adviser says the apparent Thai actors have concealed their identities in various ingenious ways, including the use of Internet-based communication applications that are knowingly difficult, if not impossible, for local intelligence agencies to track and detect.

He believes the Erawan shrine was targeted with the insider knowledge that opposed groups control different CCTV cameras pointed at varied angles in the city center area. 

In-depth local knowledge may also explain why the attack was staged on a Monday, the day of the week in which local flower vendors and lottery ticket sellers are barred from peddling their wares outside of the shrine. 

It’s unclear, however, how the blast caused so much human carnage while leaving the religious shrine, a Thai representation of the Hindu god of creation Lord Brahma, nearly unscathed. The adviser concludes that few Thais are skilled enough to stage such an attack and that those involved aim to derail what’s now happening in Thailand. He would not speculate if further attacks are expected.

If Thai investigators suspect the bombing was potentially the work of international terrorists, as the arrests of foreign nationals seem to suggest, Prayut’s government would necessarily require the help of foreign agencies to reveal transnational elements of the plot. Thai officials have accepted certain international offers of equipment and advice, but firmly resisted on sovereign grounds allowing foreigners to conduct any forensic or other evidence-based investigations. That resistance may be a reflection of the junta’s inward-looking philosophy and style. It’s just as likely a veiled admission that the country’s complex and evolving political conflict has entered a dangerous new unspoken phase.



Thursday, September 3

Bangkok Bombings: Third suspect nabbed; other developments in investigation September 3

From VOA, 9/3 - 5:50am EDT:

Thai authorities on Thursday announced they have arrested a third suspect allegedly connected to last month’s fatal shrine bombing in Bangkok. 

Kamarudeng Saho, 38, identified as a Thai Muslim, was apprehended in the southern province of Narathiwat [near Malaysia-Thailand border], and is now undergoing military interrogation ... 

From CNN, 9/3 - 3:56am EDT; By Kocha Olarn, Paul Armstrong and Jason Hanna, CNN:

Thai police have said a second suspect arrested in connection with last month's deadly bombing at a Bangkok shrine was carrying a piece of paper with a chemical formula used to make explosives written on it.

Speaking Thursday, National Police spokesman Prawut Thavonsiri said they believe the formula is based on acetone, a volatile and flammable substance.

"These mix of chemicals you can easily obtain anywhere legally, but when you combine them, they become a chemical that is quick to catch fire and can be developed to become a detonator," he said.

"This formula can also be used to enlarge the radius of the bomb. It could be used for both of the bombings. But when the bomb detonates, this element (if used in the bomb) would disappear immediately because it's an amplifier."

The same suspect's fingerprints also matched those taken from possible bomb-making material found at an apartment in Bangkok at the weekend, police said Wednesday. He was apprehended on Tuesday trying to cross the border into Cambodia.

On Thursday, Thai military authorities identified him as Yusufu Meerailee and named the other suspect in custody as Adem Karadak. Police said the two men shared the apartment in the capital where Karadak was caught on Saturday.

Both men had been traveling on false documents, according to the authorities.

Chief suspect?

National Police General Chakthip Chaijinda said at a briefing Wednesday that the second suspect -- Meerailee -- spoke Turkish and that the interrogation was conducted through a translator.

He added that they are still trying to determine whether he is the man pictured on surveillance video wearing a yellow T-shirt and dark-framed glasses, minutes before the August 17 bombing at the Erawan shrine that killed 20 people and injured numerous others. Police believe this man is the chief suspect in the attack.

Turkey's Embassy in Bangkok issued a statement Thursday saying it had requested clarification about whether the first suspect arrested on Saturday is a Turkish citizen, and about media reports relating to the discovery of Turkish passports. It said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Thailand replied, saying the "investigation is still ongoing and that the nationality of the suspects is not yet verified."

New name revealed

Meanwhile, another suspect wanted in connection with the shrine attack has been named by police. [Pundita note: His name was revealed yesterday.] An arrest warrant has been issued for Emrah Davutoglu, the husband of a previously named suspect [Wanna Suansan] on suspicion of organizing and providing accommodation to other suspects, Prawut said Wednesday.

Davutoglu and his wife, Wanna Suansan, 26, of Thailand are believed to have left the country at the same time, Prawut said, without elaborating on the timetable or their whereabouts.

Thai police previously said Wanna's husband is Turkish. But Prawut did not comment Wednesday on Davutoglu's citizenship.

Davutoglu and Wanna are among eight people for whom Thai police have issued arrest warrants in connection with the bombing, Prawut said.

Second weekend raid

Thai police said [earlier] this week that they were looking for Wanna after authorities found bomb-making materials Sunday in a Bangkok-area apartment -- the second they raided -- allegedly connected to her.


When Thai police announced Monday they were seeking Wanna, they released a sketch of an unidentified man, with dark hair and a mustache, whom they are also looking for in the case. Police said Monday that the man was not Wanna's husband but did not reveal much else about him.

Journalist Kiki Dhavitat contributed to this report.



U.S. asks fox to guard chicken coop

Would you buy a used car from this man? 

Adviser to Pakistan's Prime Minister on National Security and Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz

US Wants Pakistan to Help Reduce Violence in Afghanistan

In other futile news, 

Afghanistan Rejects Pakistan's Claim [about] Haqqani Network
by Ayaz Gul
September 2, 2015
Voice of America

(ISLAMABAD) Afghanistan rejected Pakistan's claim that it has disrupted some anti-Afghan terrorist operations within its borders, discounting it as "mere repetition".

Afghanistan noted that its own counterterrorism army disrupted the Haqqani terror network within Pakistan's border.

An Afghan presidential statement issued in Kabul said the main disagreement between the two countries is over the presence of terrorist groups - in particular the Haqqani Network - inside Pakistan.

“There is credible evidence that the leadership, command and control center, support infrastructure and sanctuaries of the Haqqani Network and other terrorist groups are inside the Pakistani territory,” the statement said.

It went on to say that the Afghan government has time and again provided “ample evidence” to the Pakistani government about the presence of terrorist networks inside Pakistan so that it could take action against the groups.

“Islamic Republic of Afghanistan reiterates that denial of these facts weakens the ground for cooperation between the two countries in the war against terrorism and the efforts strengthening regional peace and stability,” the statement said.

The Afghan government has again asked Pakistan to “sincerely” fulfill its commitments by taking “meaningful” actions against the Haqqani network.

The statement was in response to assertions Monday by Pakistan’s advisor on national security, Sartaj Aziz, that 90 percent of the Haqqani network’s infrastructure is located in Afghanistan and whatever was located on the Pakistani side has been uprooted or is being uprooted by the country’s military forces.


Wednesday, September 2

Bangkok Bombings: Bribes got Smiley and Squirrely across border; Squirrely starts singing


It's not known at this point whether names supplied for the two nabbed suspects are their real names, so for now I'm sticking with nicknames. As I mentioned in the last post there has been disagreement in some press reports about whether Smiley was nabbed in Cambodia or Thailand or trying to cross the border. This report from Thailand's Phuket Wan resolves the confusion (at least for the moment):
Bribes Probe on Border Crossing as Thailand Nabs Man Accused of Being Bangkok Bomber
By Phuketwan Reporter
Wednesday, September 2, 2015
PHUKET: A foreign man accused of being the Bangkok bomber was helped across the border from Thailand to Cambodia by a Thai official who was paid a bribe, according to media reports tonight.
However, in Cambodia, a Cambodian border official stopped the bomb suspect and alerted other authorities.
Soon after, Thai police sent a helicopter to the border crossing post at Sa Kheao and airlifted the suspect back to Bangkok for intensive questioning about the blast at the Erawan Shrine that killed 20 people on April 17.
Meanwhile, the first foreigner already under arrest and being questioned about the bombing told police that he came to Thailand via Vietnam and Laos.
At a checkpoint entry spot on the Thai border, he paid 18,000 baht to Thai Immigration officials to let him into Thailand, according to Thai police. [About 500 U.S. dollars]

Questions are now being asked about whether Immigration officials on the Thai border have been bribed to let two men associated with the Bangkok bombing enter and leave Thailand.
In more Squirrely news, Phuket Wan's report ends with this:
The first suspect, finally opening up to questioning, has said that the fake passports in his apartment were for the human trafficking of Uighurs from China who wanted to go to Turkey or third countries.
It remains to be seen whether he's telling the truth or the whole truth, but at least he's talking now.


Bangkok Bombings: Updates, clarifications, confusion, and the man in the blue shirt UPDATED

The Associated Press has two more updates.  The times given are local:

3:45 p.m.

A Thai court has issued an arrest warrant for a Turkish man who is the husband of a Thai suspect already being sought in connection with Bangkok's deadly bombing.

National police chief Prawut Thavornsiri identified the man as Emrah Davutoglu. He is facing charges of conspiracy to possess unauthorized war materials.

Wednesday's arrest warrant is the eighth issued by Thai authorities in connection with the Aug. 17 bombing of a central Bangkok shrine, which left 20 people dead and more than 120 wounded.

Prawut says that Davutoglu is believed to have been "part of a network that provided accommodation" to those connected with the bombing.

Earlier this week, police issued an arrest warrant for his wife, Thai national Wanna Suansan, whose name was on the lease of an apartment that police raided over the weekend and discovered bomb-making materials.

Wanna had told police that she is in Turkey and had nothing to do with the bombing and wants to clear her name.

Prawut says Wanna had agreed to come back to Thailand to be questioned by police but then said "she has to think about it."


2:30 p.m.

Thailand's national deputy police chief, Chakthip Chaijinda, says the suspect arrested at the border speaks Turkish, which requires a translator.

He did not say whether a translator has been brought in or if the Turkish Embassy has been approached. [...]

A more extensive version of the latest AP updates is published here.  


Yesterday's Bangkok Post reported, "Authorities believe a foreigner arrested Tuesday at the Cambodian border is the yellow-shirted man seen planting the deadly bomb at Bangkok’s Erawan shrine last month."

Well, maybe. By the evening the authorities had backed away from their belief. The Associated Press reported today (12:45pm local time):
Thai police say the fingerprints of a foreign man arrested at Thailand's border with Cambodia match those they found on a bottle containing bomb-making material.
The bottle was among many items seized during a raid Saturday of an apartment on the outskirts of Bangkok where another suspect was arrested as part of the investigation into the deadly Aug. 17 bombing at the Erawan shrine.
Both suspects are being interrogated by the military and have not yet been charged.
National police spokesman Prawut Thavornsiri said Wednesday that the man arrested at the border on Tuesday "is important and is related to or conspired with people" behind the bombing that killed 20 people and wounded more than 120.
That was all the AP was able to wring from sources and/or glean from the local press.

Disagreement also arose between news reports as to whether the suspect -- the one the wearing a baseball cap and large sunglasses that pretty much cover up his face -- was actually caught in Cambodia, or caught in Thailand near the border, or caught crossing into Cambodia.

As to Wanna, things have gotten quite mysterious:
Bomb pair in Cambodia, say police 
September 1, 2015 - 3:47pm [local time]
The Bangkok Post
[...] Meanwhile, a reporter on Monday night spoke with the most-wanted Thai Muslim woman, who said she has been in Turkey for the past three months and was "shocked" to be accused of the crime on national Thai TV.  
A woman who said she is Wanna Suansan, 26, of Phang-nga, with the Muslim name Maisaroh, told a reporter said she had already spoken with police via telephone. Later, she said officers from Bangkok had called her back to tell her not to speak to the media. 
A police source said that checks of the woman's travel records found that she left for Dubai on July 1. 
Authorities told the Bangkok Post they had spoken to "a relative" of Ms Wanna, who said she is in Turkey and she would be willing to return to Thailand to meet with officers. 
In a third, confusing development, police also told the Bangkok Post they are not actually convinced Ms Wanna had left Thailand. They said witnesses told them they had seen her and the man from the identikit were seen at the Min Buri apartment between Aug 10-20. The Erawan bomb blast was on Aug 17.
Yesterday reporters for Reuters spelled Wanna's family name somewhat differently than other reports and unlike the Thai police, who believe she has a Turkish husband, aren't entirely sure she's married unless the Reuters people are being terribly politically correct:
The woman, Wanna Suansuant, has contacted authorities and would meet police, Somyot said on Tuesday. He gave no details.
Her family told police on Monday she travelled to Turkey to work with her partner and child two to three months ago.
As to the "bomb pair" -- to return to the Bangkok Post:   
Police believe the two prime bombing suspects in the Erawan and Sathon pier explosions are hiding in Cambodia and have asked Phnom Penh authorities to hunt them down, a Crime Suppression Division (CSD) said Monday. 
A police source said Monday that CSD chief Akkaradej Pimonsri has instructed his deputy, Pol Col Itthipol Atchariyapradit, to ask Cambodian authorities to track down the world's two most-wanted men. 
That move came after checks by the Immigration Bureau found the pair entered the Cambodian town of Poipet through the Aranyaprathet border checkpoint in Sa Kaeo. The source said that, "Police expect to arrest them shortly."
Based on CCTV footage, one suspect is the man in the yellow T-shirt who allegedly planted the bomb at the Erawan shrine. 
The other suspect is a man in a blue shirt who dropped a plastic bag with a suspected explosive device from a footbridge across Sathon canal on Aug 17.  
As to whatever happened to the first suspect who was nabbed, the same Bangkok Post report explains: 
Police on Saturday arrested a foreign suspect in a raid at the Pool Anant apartment in Nong Chok district, where they also seized material for making bombs and forged Turkish passports. The suspect's nationality is still unknown.
 A military source revealed that the suspect identified himself as Bilan Muhammad, 47, and is now being detained at the 11th Army Circle in Bangkok. 
The source also said the man illegally entered Thailand through the northern border and has lived here for almost one year. He can speak English and Arabic. Authorities used an Arabic translator during questioning.
The police will verify the forged Turkish passports with officials at the Turkish embassy to determine if the suspect is a Turkish national, the source said.
The Sathon Pier bomb and Thailand's new reality

Bangkok Post: This "man in the blue T-shirt" was seen on CCTV removing his backpack and kicking it into the khlong, possibly discarding a bomb that was meant to explode at Asiatique. 

Anthony Davis, an intelligence analyst with IHS-Janes, made a splash a few days ago with his speculation that the Turkish terror group, the Grey Wolves, was a likely suspect in orchestrating the Bangkok bombings.  He's now come up with a theory that the intended target of the bomb that exploded harmlessly in the water at Sathon Pier on August 18 was the "Asiatique night market, a crowded riverside complex of restaurants and handicraft shops popular with east Asian, and mainly Chinese, tourists" near the pier.

The Bangkok Post thought enough of his theory to give him space yesterday for an op-ed, in which he goes into considerable detail to lay out the theory and argues that the bomber was forced to abandon his objective. 

I don't have an opinion on his theory beyond noting that he seems to know Thailand very well and has been on scene there.  (He made the speculation about the Grey Wolves during a panel discussion at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand.)

But the title of the opinion piece points to a larger argument: 
Attacks push Thailand into globalised era.  By this he means the globalized era of terrorism.  

At the moment, and from the hard evidence collected so far by Thai investigators, Davis's warning must be considered. The Bangkok Post "bomb pair" report noted:   

Also on Monday, the prime minister admitted that the network involved in the bombings could be linked to human trafficking rings smuggling Uighurs.
But even after the speculation was forced on police by the evidence, they had seen the bombings as an act of revenge in reaction to police crackdowns on human smuggling rather than an act of terrorism. I hope the police are right because in that case the bombings could be an isolated incident. If Davis is right, the world has changed for Thais.

Making a flower offering at Erawan Shrine,
 (AP Photo/Mark Baker) 

Tuesday, September 1

Aparna Pande is being too polite in her analysis of American support for Pakistan's atrocities

"Ironically, every American president in his first year (with the exception of Kennedy) tries to reach out to Pakistan and sees it as an American ally and in his last two years realizes the problem of divergent objectives."

But at least Aparna Pande's opinion piece conveys important facts, including the frightening self-blindness of American presidents going back to Dwight D. Eisenhower about Pakistan's actions. So when she urges that Americans stop reinforcing Pakistan's delusions -- first Americans must stop reinforcing their own delusions. 

This should have happened when the genocide perpetuated by Pakistan's regime against the country's Bengalis became evident, which was decades ago. Yet since the end of World War II facts have not mattered to the people who direct American defense policy; ideology is the only thing that matters -- a situation mirrored in Pakistan. 

And in both countries, the citizenry have supported the respective ideologies, no matter how destructive the consequences. Moreover, the ideologies have been buttressed in this era by unprecedented corruption in both Washington and Islamabad.  
That is why I once wrote that Pakistan is the true face of the American people. I lost several American readers because of the statement but I have refused to retract or modify it.  

The awful truth is that without military conscription to force a conscience on them, the vast majority of my fellow Americans were willing to go along with their government's support for Pakistani-orchestrated murders and maiming of American troops in Afghanistan. Never before in the history of warfare has a betrayal of such magnitude been committed against the defenders of a nation or tribe.

Now before I turn over the podium to Aparna Pande, I don't want to hear, 'Oh well, she's an Indian.'  

If only Americans had listened to the Indians about Pakistan a half century ago and every year since. If only.  

U.S. Should Stop Reinforcing Pakistan's DelusionsAparna Pande, Director, India Iniative, Hudson Institute
September 1, 2015
The Huffington Post

Susan Rice, the U.S. national security advisor, traveled to Pakistan on Sunday August 30, apparently to tell Pakistani officials that operations of militant jihadi groups like the Haqqani network from Pakistani soil were "absolutely unacceptable" to Americans. She is not the first official to convey that message to Pakistan. American and Pakistani officials have discussed the elimination of terrorist safe havens in Pakistan for at least the last two decades. Why, then, has the United States failed to secure Pakistan's acquiescence to its demands?

Ms. Rice's demand that Pakistan "do more" to curb terrorism from its soil will most likely have no more effect on Pakistan's all powerful military than earlier similar entreaties. The United States has been reluctant to exert leverage and pressure on Pakistan that might actually work, like international isolation, targeted sanctions or cutting off aid. The periodic suspension and conditionality of aid that the U.S. resorts to are too familiar to Pakistanis to make a difference.

In the end, it is all about how Pakistan's power centers view their national interest and the extent they fear (or, actually, do not fear) the Americans. The Pakistani military views the Haqqani network and allied groups as assets to help achieve its desire for a pro-Pakistan regime in Afghanistan. U.S. officials, in their desire to obtain Pakistan's support for American global aims, do not understand Pakistan's regional aspirations. Pakistan promises support to U.S. global aims, secures Washington's support and then goes on with pursuing its regional aims without regard for American concerns about its methods in the region.

The Pakistani assumption is that America protests but does not really care about its nuclear proliferation or support for terrorism as long as Pakistan's target is India or Afghanistan. The Taliban, the Haqqani network and the assorted anti-India jihadi groups nurtured by Islamabad did not attract American attention until 9/11. Since 2001, Pakistan has balanced its support for regional Jihadis with some cooperation with the U.S. in going after Al-Qaeda. Instead of seeing through and confronting Pakistan, Americans are all too willing to encourage Pakistan in persisting with its policies by praising the one step forward (in fighting some terrorist groups) without focusing on the many steps back.

Pakistan's regional preoccupation has been seeking military parity with its much larger neighbor, India. It doesn't matter that each one of the Pakistan's four wars with India were initiated by Pakistan. An existential threat from India is at the heart of Pakistani nationalism, the defining characteristic of a nation only 67 years old that lacks both history and an established national identity.

Pakistan has wooed the United States since its independence because Pakistani strategists and policy makers believed the U.S. was the ideal superpower ally who would build Pakistan's economic and material resources in order to help it stand up to India. From the 1950s until 1990s, Pakistan for the United States was one of many allies helping fight international communism.

American policy makers have consistently ignored, even when internal intelligence and staff memos said otherwise, the harsh reality of Pakistan never sharing American goals. When the Americans turned to Pakistan to fight international communism, Pakistan saw Hinduism as the threat. Now, despite being America's nominal allies in the fight against international terrorism, Pakistan still sees 'Hindu India' as the principal threat. Jihadi groups, such as the Haqqani Network, are Pakistan's instruments in its own war with India for influence over Afghanistan.

While the United States' focus has been global, Pakistan's focus has been regional: the desire for parity -- primarily military but also economic -- with India. Economic and military aid from the US has been one part of the strategy for achieving parity, the other has been using non-state actors or jihadi groups to keep both its neighbors - India and Afghanistan - tied down.

Fearful of one neighbor, India, Pakistan's early leaders hoped that their western neighbor, 'Muslim' Afghanistan would accept the Pakistani viewpoint and avoid ties with 'Hindu' India. However, Kabul and New Delhi have had close ties right from the 1950s with the exception of the years of Taliban rule.

To prevent a strategic encirclement by India and Afghanistan, Pakistan's military-intelligence establishment has supported Islamist groups in Afghanistan in the hope of a pro-Pakistan anti-Indian Afghan government. This has led Pakistan to support not just the Afghan Taliban but also the Haqqani network and allied groups.

Washington has known -and ignored -- Pakistan's security fears (and paranoia) about India and Afghanistan for decades. American policymakers and leaders have, however, always hoped that by giving more aid and arms to Pakistan they would reassure Pakistan's leaders that there was no threat to their territorial integrity and this would lead Pakistan to change its worldview.

Ironically, every American president in his first year (with the exception of Kennedy) tries to reach out to Pakistan and sees it as an American ally and in his last two years realizes the problem of divergent objectives.

In his book Magnificent Delusions: Pakistan, the United States and an Epic History of Misunderstanding, Husain Haqqani (former Pakistani ambassador to the U.S.) tells the fascinating story of how President Dwight Eisenhower (along with Secretary of State John Foster Dulles) initially saw Pakistan as America's 'Most Allied Ally in Asia,' only to wonder in his second term whether military aid to Pakistan served any useful American purpose. President Lyndon Johnson asked the same question in 1965 and every American President, with the exception of Richard Nixon, has done so since then.

Despite the $12 billion in aid that the US provided to Pakistan after 9/11, former President George W. Bush wrote in his memoirs that then Pakistani President General Pervez Musharraf "would not or could not fulfill his promises."

The Obama administration, too, has followed the familiar pattern of assuming that aid will buy America leverage with Pakistan. The Kerry Lugar Berman Bill, authorized by Congress in 2009, promised $1.5 billion in aid annually for 5 years, in the hope that this would encourage Pakistan to abandon support for Jihadi groups. The aid has flown uninterrupted even though Taliban operating from Pakistan attacked American troops in Afghanistan. US intelligence found the Pakistan-backed Haqqani network responsible for an attack on the American Embassy in Kabul and suspected Pakistani intelligence officers of directing the attack.

Ms. Rice's visit to Pakistan is unlikely to change Pakistani policy any more than the several visits to Islamabad by her predecessor General Jim Jones. Former Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Michael Mullen, met the Pakistan army chief 26 times in three years, hoping to initiate a change in Pakistani behavior. Towards the end of his tenure, Mullen voiced his frustration that the Haqqani Network operated as 'a veritable arm' of Pakistan's army. [Yet] Apparently, frequent meetings with Pakistan's top general was not guarantee that the general would redirect the effort of his ground troops.

High-level visits by American officials to Pakistan do not help change Pakistan's strategic mindset. They only reinforce the belief of Pakistani leaders in the centrality of their country to global order. The belief that Pakistan is indispensable to the United States and is the pivot of the world for other major powers has encouraged Pakistan's irresponsible behavior.

Instead of feeding Pakistan's psychoses of self-importance and paranoia, the U.S. would do better by jolting its leaders into facing the realities of their domestic failures and the elusiveness of their dream of regional pre-eminence through terrorism.



CAPTURED! Prime suspect in Bangkok Erawan Shrine bombing nabbed in Cambodia

Got 'im!  

Authorities escort a man arrested yesterday who is suspected to be the prime suspect in the Aug 17 bombing of the Erawan shrine. 

Smile for the camera!  

Photo:  The Bangkok Post

Erawan bombing suspect arrested in Cambodia 
1 Sep 2015 at 16:20 [local time]
The Bangkok Post

A foreigner suspected of involvement in last month’s bombing of the Erawan shrine in Bangkok was arrested in Cambodia and handed over to Thai authorities Tuesday, a police source said. 

An informed source in the police investigative team said Cambodian police captured the suspect on Monday and arranged today's handover at the border in the Cambodian border town of Poipet in Banteay Meanchey province, opposite Sa Kaeo's Aranyaprathet district. 

He was detained for preliminary investigations at a military camp in Aranyaprathet before Bangkok for further interrogations, the source added. 

The source refused to state where the man was arrested in Cambodia and said he was identified only as "Yusufu". 

Thai media today widely published a photo of a Chinese passport of a man matching the suspect's description. In the passport, he is identified as Yusufu Mieraili, 25, from Xinjiang province. 

Xinjiang is the home province for China's Uighur Muslim minority. 

The suspect was believed to be on his way from Thailand to Phnom Penh when he was captured, according to the source. The source said a senior police officer went to Cambodia to coordinate with authorities there after it had been confirmed the suspect fled Thailand to Cambodia. 

Assistant national police chief Pol Gen Chakthip Chaijinda is leading the investigation on the case. 

Earlier, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said the man was a "main suspect" in the Aug. 17 bombing at the Ratchaprasong intersection shrine that killed 20 and injured 131. 

He is believed to the person seen in CCTV footage wearing a yellow shirt and leaving a backpack behind at the shrine. 

Authorities plan to hold a press conference after 5pm to release more details about the arrest of the subject, who was being flown by helicopter back to Bangkok today. 


See also Bangkok Bombing: 24 Officers ‘Transferred’ for Misconduct; Khaosod English, September 1, 2015


Afghans accuse Pakistan of exporting terrorism. Gee PM David Cameron said that in 2010.

“With Pakistan’s support, it doesn’t matter who supports [Mansoor] and who doesn’t.” -- Associated Press, September 1, 2015

There's just one problem with calls from NATO leaders for Afghanistan's government to resume negotiations with the Taliban: mercenaries paid to make war can't negotiate.

But all this is an old story. Remember PM Dave's ringing speech in India? From the History Commons:

July 28, 2010: British Prime Minister Cameron Accuses Pakistani Government of Exporting Terrorism
Speaking publicly in India, British Prime Minister David Cameron claims that the Pakistani government is exporting terrorism. He says, “We cannot tolerate in any sense the idea that [Pakistan] is allowed to look both ways and is able to promote the export of terror, whether to India or Afghanistan or anywhere else in the world. That is why this relationship is important. But it should be a relationship based on a very clear message: that it is not right to have any relationship with groups that are promoting terror. ..."
My how time flies and how little changes. As to what if anything can be done about the situation -- Afghans have to start thinking like Israelis; that is, recognize their country is under a permanent siege.

Afghan Taliban publish leader's biography as insurgents meet over internal power struggle
August 31, 2015 - 5:00pm EDT
The Associated Press via U.S. News and World Report

KABUL, Afghanistan — Defying warnings from Washington and the fury of Afghanistan’s government, Pakistani authorities are turning a blind eye to a meeting of hundreds of Taliban supporters in a city near the Afghan border aimed at resolving a dispute over the group’s leadership following the death of figurehead Mullah Mohammad Omar.

The gathering in the Pakistani city of Quetta, where the Taliban’s leadership has been largely based since they were pushed from power by a U.S.-led invasion in 2001, has drawn some 1,000 Taliban adherents who have openly descended on the city for a “unity shura,” a meeting intended to resolve the leadership crisis and reunite the group, whose divisions have been publicly aired since Mullah Omar’s death was revealed in late July.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has accused Pakistan of harboring groups that are waging war on his country. His deputy spokesman, Zafar Hashemi, told The Associated Press that Pakistan was failing to take action against “those groups holding gatherings in public and declaring war against the Afghan people,” a reference to the Taliban meetings in Quetta.

The Taliban’s struggle to overthrow the Kabul government is nearing its 14th year. Thousands of U.S. and NATO soldiers, along with many more thousands of Afghan civilians, troops and police have been killed in the fighting, which has intensified following the drawdown last year of most foreign combat troops. The Taliban are clearly testing the Afghan forces as they take on the insurgency alone, though their fighters have made little significant progress on the battlefield.

The leadership struggle became public after the Afghan government announced in late July that Mullah Omar had been dead since April 2013. His deputy, Mullah Akhtar Mansoor, was declared his successor, but Mullah Omar’s family objected, saying the vote to elect the new leader was not representative of the group. The unity shura — essentially a dispute resolution committee — was established in early August to deal with the crisis, and shura leader Ahmad Rabbani says its decision could be reached in days.

In an indication of what is at stake, the Taliban published a biography Monday of Mansoor in a clear attempt by his backers to shore up his support among the Taliban leaders, religious scholars, battlefield commanders and rank-and-file supporters as deliberations come to a close. They have met at various spots around Quetta — in Chaman near the Afghan border and in tribal areas of Pakistan’s Balochistan province, troubled by its own insurgency.

With impressive organizational skills, the Quetta-based Taliban have taken on the task of hosting hundreds of visitors from Afghanistan, billeting them in madrassas, mosques and private homes, ensuring they are fed and that transport is arranged so they can get to their meetings on time. Many attendees, including religious scholars and commanders, traveled from remote regions of Afghanistan. Many of the fighting men have already departed, shura leaders said, having made their preferences clear.

Rabbani said that Mansoor has yet to inform the shura that he will adhere to whatever decision is made, although Mullah Omar’s brother, Manan, and son, Yaqub, have done so. Mansoor has been given until Tuesday to state his position, Rabbani said, adding: “We don’t need his permission to announce our decision, and have made contingency plans for whether he says he will follow our decision or not.”

He said the committee’s decision on the leadership could come as early as Wednesday.

The meetings appear to have been untroubled by the Pakistani authorities, who habitually deny that they sponsor the Taliban or other terrorist groups, such as the Haqqani Network whose leader, Sirajuddin Haqqani, is one of Mansoor’s deputies.

“Yes, our officials have contacts with them. Our officials have ability to contact and bring them to the negotiation table. That doesn’t mean that our intelligence agencies have control on each and every thing,” said Pakistani security analyst Zahid Hussain.

Ghani’s condemnation of Pakistan’s support for the Taliban boiled over in early August after a series of deadly attacks on the capital, Kabul, that left 50 people dead and hundreds wounded. After almost a year of trying to mend fences with Islamabad, the Afghan leader went on live TV and accused Pakistan of being the source of violence in his country. Relations between the neighbors have suffered, with an Afghan delegation returning empty-handed from a visit to Pakistan meant to hammer out a way of dealing with the insurgency.

“The decisions the Pakistani government will be making in the next few weeks will significantly affect bilateral relations for the next decades,” Ghani said in his TV address. “We can no longer tolerate watching our people bleeding in a war exported and imposed on us from outside.”

Peace talks between Ghani’s administration and the Taliban, which had been supported by Pakistan, were indefinitely postponed after the announcement of Mullah Omar’s death. Analysts and diplomats say it could be years before they are revived and that in the meantime the war could get worse as the new Taliban leader consolidates power and tries to win over all elements, including extremists who have been disaffected by the Taliban’s lack of progress towards it goal of retaking Kabul.

U.S. National Security Adviser Susan Rice met with Pakistani leaders on Sunday to discuss efforts to revive peace talks. In a statement, the White House said she “underscored the U.S. commitment to an Afghan-led peace process, and urged Pakistan to intensify its efforts to counter terrorist sanctuaries inside its borders in order to promote regional peace and stability.”

In recent days, gunmen loyal to Mansoor and to a powerful supporter of Mullah Omar’s family in the leadership contest, Mullah Mansoor Dadullah, have fought openly in Zabul province in southern Afghanistan. At least five fighters were killed in battles on Saturday, Rabbani said.

Dadullah condemned the release of Mansoor’s biography, accusing him of being “desperate” for power “and using every tactic to increase his popularity.”

The 5,000-word document, emailed to journalists in five languages, describes Mansoor, who was born in 1968, as a tireless holy warrior, good listener and ardent protector of civilians, who was appointed as the insurgents’ leader “in full compliance with Islamic Shariah law.”

Mansoor “never nominated himself for leadership, rather he was selected as the only candidate ... by members of the leading council of the Islamic Emirate and religious scholars,” the biography says, using the name of the former Taliban government.

“Mansoor is trying to show that he is the leader and no one can reach him on that level,” said Mohammad Ismail Qasimyar, the foreign relations adviser to the Afghan government’s High Peace Council, which is charged with ending the war.

Mansoor is believed to have gained power in the Taliban in part because of his connections to Pakistan’s powerful Inter-Services Intelligence agency, which long has had ties to Afghan militants. He is believed to have acted in Mullah Omar’s name in recent years and taken the Taliban into a peace dialogue with the Afghan government at the same time as stepping up the battle against Afghan forces, all at the ISI’s behest, Qasimayar said.

With the backing of the Pakistani intelligence agency, Mansoor “is the only one right now that has more support than anyone else for the leadership,” Qasimyar said. “With Pakistan’s support, it doesn’t matter who supports him and who doesn’t.”

However, Habibullah Fouzi, a diplomat under the Taliban and now a member of the Afghan government’s peace council, said there could be more dissension within the Taliban. He said many rank-and-file members supported Mullah Omar’s family. “It is clear that Mullah Mansoor has been imposed into this position by others,” he said.

Mansoor’s biography also for the first time gives a date for Mullah Omar’s death: April 23, 2013. 

The Taliban said it kept his death a secret as “2013 was considered the last year of resistance and struggle” before the drawdown of U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan. [Pundita note:  Baloney]


Lebanon lurches toward military rule

Each cabinet position and parliamentary seat is distributed among Lebanon’s 18 officially recognized religions and sects, including Sunni Islam, Shiite Islam, Maronite Christians, Greek Orthodox Christians and followers of the ancient Druse faith. 

“You have 18 different dictators, represented by the sectarian community,” Ms. Nassar said. “It’s by nature dysfunctional.” -- The Wall Street Journal
YaLibnan: "Lebanon’s army chief Jean Kahwaji will be appointed by lawmakers as the country’s president, in order to quell widespread public anger over a dysfunctional political system and a presidential vacuum that has now lasted for over a year, according to a report by Asharq Al-Awsat."

“Sisi scenario” for Lebanon “is now almost certain”: report
September 1, 2015 by yalibnan

[From the byline at the end of the text, the following seems to be YaLibnan's English translation of a report from the influential Arabic language newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat, headquartered in London.] 

Beirut, Lebanon – Lebanon’s army chief Jean Kahwaji will be appointed by lawmakers as the country’s president, in order to quell widespread public anger over a dysfunctional political system and a presidential vacuum that has now lasted for over a year.

A source from the 14 March Alliance -- a coalition of political parties led by Saad Hariri, the son of former prime minister Rafik Hariri -- told Asharq Al-Awsat a “Sisi scenario” for Lebanon was now “almost certain” in light of the recent protests that have rocked the country.

Speaking in reference to former Egyptian army chief and current President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, the source said MPs have agreed to elect head of the army Kahwaji as president of the country before parliamentary elections are held and a new government is appointed.

The source added that the idea was proposed by Lebanese MPs and “international sides” in recent months during negotiations between Iran and world powers over Tehran’s nuclear program. Iran, through Shi’ite group Hezbollah, holds considerable influence over Lebanese politics.

Thousands of Lebanese have taken to the streets of Beirut and elsewhere in the country in recent weeks to protest a mounting garbage crisis in the capital. Piles of refuse have accumulated throughout Beirut since the beginning of the summer after the government closed the city’s main landfill site without proposing alternatives for waste collection.

The protesters say the crisis is symptomatic of a failed government and political system, with Lebanon blighted by poor public services and facing a presidential vacuum that has now lasted for a year and four months.

Lebanon’s political system is dominated by sectarian groups such as the Shi’ite Hezbollah and Christian Kataeb (Phalangist) Party. Official posts are divided up between different confessional groups, with the presidency traditionally held by a Christian and the prime minister and parliament speaker posts going to a Sunni and a Shi’ite Muslim respectively.

However, political deadlock has prevented the election of a new president, with lawmakers unable to agree on a candidate. According to Lebanon’s constitution, the public vote in parliamentary elections but only elected MPs can appoint the country’s president.

Several candidates have been touted for the position. They include Kahwaji, head of the Lebanese Forces Party Samir Geagea, and former army chief Michel Aoun.

The source said lawmakers plan to appoint Aoun’s son-in-law Brig. Gen. Chamel Roukoz as head of the army in Kahwaji’s place in order to placate Aoun and leave the way open for Kahwaji. Aoun has been lobbying MPs for months to replace Kahwaji with Roukoz but has refused to back down from his bid for the presidency.

Meanwhile, a source close to Prime Minister Tammam Salam said the latter would not acquiesce to protesters’ demands to sack Environment Minister Mohamed Mashnouq over the garbage crisis.

“The environment minister will not resign under pressure and will not become a scapegoat for a thorny issue that has been around for decades,” the source said.

Asharq Al-Awsat


See the following Pundita posts for background on the current political crisis in Lebanon:

August 30 - YouStink gives government 72 hours to meet their demands: Latest on Lebanon crisis

August 29 - Beirut: You Stink campaign, Round 2. "If we stay home they will rule for another 25 years"  (Extensive discussion)


Monday, August 31

Egypt's President is no Sissi

To settle this debate among editors at Western news outlets I looked at the website for the Embassy of Egypt in Washington, D.C. This on the theory that the embassy should know how their own President's name and honorific form of address (Al vs. El) are spelled:   

President, Abdel Fattah El Sisi

Granted, his full name is Abdel Fattah Saeed Hussein Khalil El Sisi (Wikipedia) but there you have it. The President is no Sissi. He's Sisi.

And the proper form of address is "President Sisi." Calling him President El Sisi would be like adressing Barack Obama as President Mr Obama.

Thank you. Good night, Chet.


The Nation report on Bangkok Bombings provides information other news sources haven't

Kudos to The Nation, a Thai news site that from the looks of it covers regional as well as Thai issues. I've highlighted passages in the following report that contain information about the police investigation I hadn't learned about from other news sources. But before The Nation report, I want to mention a big and important discrepancy in reports filed today by Thai news site Khaosod English and The Washington Post.

From KE (Soldiers, Police Sweep Southern Home of Thai Bombing Suspect, last updated 18:24:00 GMT):
At around 2pm today soldiers and policemen arrived at Wanna’s family home [in Phang Nga province] and conducted a search of the property for any suspicious material. No illegal items were found in the search, police said. 
Her family members told police she has not been back home for three months.
According to a reporter on the scene in Phang Nga, a police officer told one of the relatives to use the Line chat application to contact Wanna and ask where she was, at which point Wanna allegedly replied that she is in Turkey.
From WP (Thai police seek 2 new suspects in Bangkok bombing probe, timestamped 6:25pm EDT, which is considerably later than the KE report's publication):
Police Maj. Gen. Chalit Keawyarat said the woman’s relatives told police that she had been away for more than three months and that they thought she was in Turkey because her husband is Turkish.
“The relatives are trying to contact her so that she could prove her innocence to the police. The relatives believe she is not involved,” Chalit said.
I saw the Khaosod English report early this morning (EDT), so maybe The Washington Post reporter(s) -- not credited in the report -- would want to do a little more checking before running with a story from a foreign country. I think there's always a home team advantage but just because of this, American reporters and their editors need to pay very close attention to the local reports berfore filing their own.
As to whether the Post's version might actually be the correct one, there was most definitely a local reporter on the scene. Here is a photograph that Khaosod English obtained of police and military investigators chatting with Wanna's family members:

Wanted woman 'in Turkey'
September 1, 2015 - 1:00am [local time]
The Nation

Thai woman flew out of Phuket in July; bomb materials found in flat she rented, police say; relative claims she will return to deny any role in blasts

THE hunt for those behind the Erawan Shrine bombing two weeks ago has narrowed, with arrest warrants issued for two more suspects - one of them a Thai woman from the South.

However, police have been unable to clearly pinpoint the motive for Bangkok's worst bomb attack. They have come up with the theory that the culprits may have been human smugglers angered by the government's crackdown on the illegal trade, a source familiar with the ongoing investigation said yesterday.

Previously, possible suspects included political rivals, organised criminal gangs, Islamic militants, southern insurgents and sympathisers of Uighur refugees.

Four arrest warrants have so far been issued in connection with the two blasts - the male shrine bomber seen wearing a yellow shirt and a man in a blue shirt who dropped an explosive device at Sathorn pier. That device exploded the day after the shrine attack but no one was injured.

Meanwhile, police investigators have found footage from closed-circuit TV cameras near Hua Lamphong Railway Station that shows the shrine bomber receiving a backpack similar to one used in the bombing from a man in a white shirt, another police source said.

Min Buri Provincial Court yesterday granted a police request to issue arrest warrants for Phang Nga resident Wanna Suansan, 26, who is also known by the Muslim name Maisaloh, and a man of an unspecified nationality.

Police said Wanna rented an apartment in Min Buri in eastern Bangkok for the man.

A sketch of the unidentified man, who looks to be a foreigner, was issued along with the arrest warrant.

The wanted woman left Thailand on July 1 from Phuket airport for Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates, according to a police source. Video footage showed her with a man who looks like the man in the police sketch. However, there is no immigration record of him leaving Thailand.

A search of Wanna's rented room found gunpowder, urea fertiliser and other bomb-making materials, Royal Thai Police spokesman Lt-General Prawut Thavornsiri said.

Police searched her house in Phang Nga yesterday afternoon. A relative of Wanna at the house said she was in Turkey, the country of her husband.

The relative said Wanna had insisted she was not involved with the blasts and would come back soon to turn herself in to police. [See excerpts from a CNN report, below]

But Prawut said: "We are confident that these two people are in the same group of people responsible for the blasts at the Ratchaprasong intersection and the Sathon pier."

He said more arrest warrants would be issued soon but declined elaborate.

The foreigner of unknown nationality arrested on Saturday at an apartment in Nong Chok is still denying involvement in the blasts, a source said. However, substances found on his clothes were similar to what was used in the bombs.

Police will conduct a DNA test in a bid to confirm his link with the blasts, the source added.

The man, who held a fake Turkish passport, is being detained at the 11th Military Circle in Bangkok's Dusit district, where security has been increased. No media are allowed to take photographs or do video recordings at the agency.

Prawut dismissed a report that police were detaining four Palestinians in connection with the investigation. But he could not confirm or deny they were being detained by the military.

The spokesman said police were conducting searches in many locations but declined to discuss the operation in detail. He urged owners of apartment buildings with foreign tenants to prepare copies of CCTV recordings of the tenants for police examination.

National police chief General Somyot Poompanmuang met Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha at Government House yesterday to report on progress in the investigation. The PM told reporters afterwards that the mass media should avoid making wild speculation about the case or they could further complicate the probe.

In the government's newsletter for September 1 (today), General Prayut wrote: "I and all the Cabinet members promise that we will do the best of our ability to prevent such an incident from happening again. And we will find all the perpetrators to be punished in accordance with the law."


From CNN report today updated 3:55pm EDT:

Wanna herself has denied any involvement, according to the police official. She admitted renting an apartment room in Bangkok, though she claimed she gave it up almost a year ago.
The 26-year-old said that she's in Turkey with her baby and husband, who is Turkish, according to Saharat. The police colonel added that he believed Wanna would willingly come back to Thailand and answer authorities questions "if the government would help her come home."
Despite her denials, Saharat said Thai police still consider Wanna a suspect.
Police images of suspects Wanna Suansan and unidentified man who may be her husband

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