#Thailand – TAO chief and four others held over Big C bombing

Suspected murder of owner of pickup used in Pattani blasts

FIVE MEN, including a Tambon Administration Organisation (TAO) chief, have been detained for questioning over their alleged involvement in the broad daylight bomb blasts in Pattani province, Fourth Army Region Commander Lt-General Piyawat Narkwanich said yesterday.

This is the first time that a state official has been identified and detained for alleged involvement in the insurgency in the deep South. Piyawat did not name the TAO chief.

The chief of Pattani’s Nong Chik district was arrested after another suspect implicated him in the alleged murder of a pickup owner and the theft of the vehicle that was used in the attack in the province’s Muang district on Tuesday.

 Evidence found at the scene and footage from the Big C department store’s security camera led to the arrest of the suspects, Piyawat said.

The five suspects allegedly stole the pickup of Yala resident Nuson Kajornkam, which was used in the car-bomb attack at the Big C outlet.

Piyawat said there was a likelihood that Nuson had been killed as one of the five detained suspects had confessed to wiping blood from the pickup.

The body of Nuson was later found in a paddy field in Pattani’s Nong Chik district. His wife earlier said that someone had telephoned Nuson on Monday, saying he wanted to buy items from him in Pattani.

She said her husband left at around 10am on Tuesday for Pattani. Nuson’s vehicle, bearing Yala licence plate Bor Jor 3303, was later packed with explosives and parked at the Big C store where it exploded at about 2.30pm, leaving more than 80 injured, including children.

Investigators have concluded that the pickup was stolen from a mosque in Ban Mai, a village in Nongchik district’s Tambon Kohpoh in Pattani.

Witnesses told police they saw four men surrounding the pickup before the owner was killed and his body was taken away in another pickup. Despite a fresh concrete floor having been laid, bloodstains were found at the spot identified by the witnesses.

Piyawat called for understanding from the public, as tighter security would mean difficulties in commuting.

“Authorities will be checking every vehicle, including ice-cream trucks because the insurgents are trying to adjust their operations, so we have to be one better than them,” he said.

The insurgents’ attack on the Big C department store in Pattani had led to great loss of support among Thai Muslim local residents, Piyawat said. The bomb attack had most affected Thai Muslims who were shopping in the store, including children, he added. About 95 per cent of the population in the area is Thai Muslim.

“The blasts have badly affected not only the Thai Muslim community but also every group of society, particularly women and children. They are just people who went to the store to buy things before going home,” Piyawat said.

Meanwhile, national police chief Pol General Chakthip Chaijinda said police had been warned about the Big C bombing about an hour before the attack.

Source – TheNation