BANGKOK – Thai authorities on Saturday issued an arrest warrant for a 12th suspect in connection with last month's bombing at a Bangkok landmark that killed 20 people, identifying him as a 27-year-old ethnic Uighur from China.
Police identified the suspect from the name that is in his passport, Abudusataer Abudureheman , but said he also uses the name "Ishan."
Although Saturday's police handout on the suspect identified him as Uighur, police later asked the media not to use the term. It is the first time a suspect has officially been identified that way.
Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha has suggested those behind the Aug. 17 bombing may have been from a gang involved in smuggling Uighurs (pronounced WEE-gurs) from the Chinese region of Xinjiang, while others speculate they may be separatists or Islamist extremists angry that Thailand repatriated more than 100 Uighurs to China in July.
Uighurs complain of oppression by the Chinese government, and some advocate turning Xinjiang into a separate Uighur state.
Police spokesman Lt. Gen. Prawut Thavornsiri said the charge against the latest suspect is illegal possession of military hardware, based upon finding that he was present in an apartment where such materials were discovered in a police raid.
Police and other Thai authorities have acknowledged that most of the suspects are believed to be foreigners — from China and Turkey, which hosts a large number of Uighurs — but have so far declined to identify the bombing as an act of international terrorism, out of apparent fear that it will hurt the country's huge tourism industry.
Thai officials said Friday that they think Ishan may have fled to China, and have asked the authorities there to trace him. But officials from Bangladesh said that while he went there shortly before the blast, he then left Bangladesh on Aug. 30 and was supposed to transit in Delhi on his way to China but never got to his final destination.
Two suspects have been arrested in connection with the bombing at the popular Erawan Shrine, one with a fake Turkish passport and the other with a Chinese passport that, as in Ishan's case, describes him as coming from Xinjiang with a name that would typically belong to a Uighur.
Thai officials say that two suspects, including the man they believe may have actually planted the bomb, may have fled across Thailand's southern border to Malaysia.