Authorities issue 17 arrest warrants after bombings

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Bangkok (AP) — Seventeen people detained after last week’s bombings and arson in the south of the nation are being charged with belonging to a criminal gang, but authorities have not publicly linked them to the attacks that killed four people and wounded dozens.

Authorities direct traffic after last week’s explosions in Hua Hin, Friday, Aug. 12. (AP Photo/Penny Yi Wang)
Authorities direct traffic after last week’s explosions in Hua Hin, Friday, Aug. 12. (AP Photo/Penny Yi Wang)

A military court late Thursday approved arrest warrants for the 17, who are to hear the charges in court Friday. It is unclear how many are in custody.

The authorities have hinted, but not publicly stated, they are suspects in the attacks at seven tourist destinations. Reporters were told by officials on an anonymous basis that the 17 had confessed to being in a previously unknown anti-government group called Revolution for Democracy but denied carrying out the attacks.

A search of the house of one of the 17 suspects turned up an AK-47 assault rifle, according to the anonymous sources, who released the names and home provinces of all of the suspects. Most are from the north and northeast, though all the attacks took place in southern provinces.

Col. Winthai Suvaree, a spokesman for the government, said the detentions were unrelated to last week’s attacks. He said without elaborating that the 17 were involved in a national security case.

However, the names of some of those detained match earlier information leaked by police as being suspects in the attacks.

The crime with which the 17 are being charged is membership in a secret society, punishable by up to seven years in prison. The crime, which is also called criminal association, was originally applied many decades ago to criminal gangs such as Chinese triads. Other charges can be lodged against them at a future time.

Information about the investigation of the attacks has been vague and contradictory. At various points, the authorities have said the attacks were similar in style to those carried out by southern militants; that they were acts of local sabotage rather than terrorism; and that a single figure known to them had directed them.