Thai Officials Make Bangkok Bombing Arrest and Give Out $84,000 Reward — to Themselves
Thailand finally made arrests in the Aug. 17 Bangkok bombings, but the cash reward wasn't given to vigilantes, but to the police themselves.
When a bomb hit the crowded Erawan shrine in Bangkok on Aug. 17, Thai officials had little more than blurry security camera footage to help piece together details of the attack. So they offered a reward -- roughly $84,000 -- for information leading to an arrest.
When a bomb hit the crowded Erawan shrine in Bangkok on Aug. 17, Thai officials had little more than blurry security camera footage to help piece together details of the attack. So they offered a reward — roughly $84,000 — for information leading to an arrest.
That cash got handed out Monday, not to a citizen detective or police informant, but to the police themselves, after they arrested an unidentified “foreigner” they claim is connected to the attack, which killed 20 and injured more than 100.
National police chief Somyot Poompanmoung announced at a news conference Monday that he would be giving out the cash reward to the officers who made the arrest, even though the suspect has not been charged or convicted.
In the middle of the news conference the police chief turned to an aide and reportedly said “Give me the bag.” He then pointed to stacks of cash and said it rightfully belonged to the police who made the arrest without any outside tips.
“It is the ability of Thai officials that led to the arrest,” he said. “This money should be given to officials who did their job.”
Police claim they found bomb-making materials in the unidentified suspect’s home, and are certain that he is connected to the plot that rattled the Thai capital earlier this month.
Thailand welcomes more than 20 million tourists a year, and the bombing, which targeted a popular tourist spot, prompted fears that the tourism industry would suffer a major blow. The delay in arresting any suspects only furthered those fears, as Thai officials blundered through a lengthy manhunt and came up empty-handed for close to two weeks. Shortly after the blast, they even questioned a b-list Australian actor who social media vigilantes claimed looked similar to the man captured on security cameras.
After the weekend arrest, Somyot seemed eager to quell fears Thailand was the target of international terrorism. He made clear that even if the suspect they arrested is foreign and may have helped plot a deadly bombing, he is not an “international terrorist.”
“He is a foreigner, but it’s unlikely that he is an international terrorist, it’s a personal feud,” Somyot said, without offering any further details. “He got angry on behalf of his friends and family members.”
The police also released images of two more suspects Monday. One is an unidentified foreigner, and the other they said is Wanna Suansun, a 26-year-old Thai woman.
As for the reward? Somyot defended the choice to distribute it to the police responsible for the weekend arrest, saying it was a good opportunity for younger officers to see “that higher ranking officers actually give them money.” Low-ranking police in Thailand have historically complained they are cheated out of their salaries by senior officials.
Image Credit: CHRISTOPHE ARCHAMBAULT/AFP/Getty Images
Siobhán O'Grady was a staff writer at Foreign Policy from 2015-2016 and was previously an editorial fellow.
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