A joint police-military force detained the former electrical engineer at a state enterprise after finding bomb-making materials at his house in Bangkok yesterday (June 15) afternoon. A source identified him as Watana Pumret, a retired employee of the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (Egat).
He was questioned at the 11th Military Circle in Bangkok’s Dusit district. First Army Area commander Gen Apirat Kongsompong reportedly supervised the interrogation personally.
Police are poised to bring charges against the suspect for the possession and production of explosives, the source said.
He would also face a charge of terrorism if sufficient evidence is found.
Defence Ministry spokesman Maj Gen Kongcheep Tantravanich confirmed reports that the suspected hospital bomber had been arrested.
He said it was unlikely that only one person was behind the blast and the investigation will be widened to catch any others involved.
“I want the media to follow this story and find out if this person was really the bomb maker in this incident,” said Maj Gen Kongcheep, adding the focus must now be on the mastermind behind the attack rather than on the arrested individual.
Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon later said the man had confessed he was responsible for the bombing at Phramongkutklao Hospital on May 22 in which 20 people were injured.
Military sources said he also confessed to bombings at the National Theatre near Sanam Luang on Rattanakosin Island on May 15 and the old Government Lottery Office on Ratchadamnoen Klang Ave on April 5, as well as three previous bomb explosions in Bangkok.
The suspect reportedly confessed to carrying out the Phramongkutklao Hospital attack alone. He told interrogators he disliked the military, the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) and Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha.
According to a military source, Watana said he hated soldiers because they maimed and killed demonstrators before gunning down people at Wat Pathum Wanaram in Pathumwan district during the April, 2010, violence after red shirt protests, “and this hatred runs deep”, the source said.
Six people were killed at the temple on May 19, 2010, when soldiers closed in on the rally site of red-shirt demonstrators against the government of Abhisit Vejjajiva in the Ratchaprasong area, firing at will.
Korkaew Pikulthong, a key member of the red-shirt United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD), yesterday declined to comment on whether security officials had found a wall clock with a photo of Thaksin on it at Wattana’s house.
However, he said the UDD disagreed with all groups resorting to violence to solve problems.
Watana’s arrest was based specifically on a review of footage of the hospital’s CCTV cameras on the day of the explosion.
In the footage, a man between 160 centimetres and 165cm tall was seen walking through the hospital gate and heading to the Wongsuwon room, named for Gen Prawit after his service as Royal Thai Army commander.
The man wore brown clothing. In the video, he was carrying a white bag with an object similar to a vase protruding from it.
He entered the room and left 10 minutes later empty-handed.
The raid searched his house in a housing estate in Ram Intra Soi 3 in Bangkok and found bomb-making items, as well as four pipe bombs, together with PVC pipes and screws.
The man reportedly said he did not like the military or the current coup regime. Investigators do not believe his story that he acted alone, and think that rogue groups of soldiers might be involved.
Also yesterday, officers searched two condominiums behind the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand offices in Bang Kruai district for evidence linked to the hospital blast, the source said.
They reportedly took away evidence to determine whether the materials were the same types as those used in the previous bombings at lottery office and National Theatre.
Gen Apirat declined to give more information about the arrest.
Authorities are examining whether the items recovered were connected with the blast at the hospital as well as the two small explosions in April and May, said the source.
In all, according to security sources, Watana has admitted placing bombs at six locations in Bangkok.
Three previous bombings were at a public phone booth in front of the Major Ratchayothin cinema complex on April 9, 2007; in a phone booth at the entrance to Ratchawithi 24 Rd on May 5, 2007, and at the fence of the army headquarters on Ratchadamnoen Ave on Sept 30, 2007.
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