Police award themselves 3 million baht for arrest of bomb suspect

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Bangkok (AP) – With much fanfare, police had offered a 3 million baht reward for tips leading to arrests in the Bangkok bombing. On Monday, they handed out the cash – to themselves.

They arrested a suspect Saturday, though the man has not yet been formally charged in the Aug. 17 bombing at Bangkok’s Erawan Shrine, which killed 20 people and injured more than 120.

Police Chief Somyot Poompanmoung said he was taking the unusual step of redirecting the 3 million baht reward to highlight that Thailand’s police are good at their jobs.

In this image taken from video, National Police Chief Somyot Poompanmoung holds a cash reward at a press conference in Bangkok, Monday, Aug. 31, 2015. (AP Photo/AP Video)In this image taken from video, National Police Chief Somyot Poompanmoung holds a cash reward at a press conference in Bangkok, Monday, Aug. 31, 2015. (AP Photo/AP Video)

Somyot made the announcement at a news conference Monday, saying he had “good news.”

“Give me the bag,” he said, turning to an aide who rushed over with stacks of cash that Somyot placed on the podium before him.

“This is real money,” the police chief said with a smile. He went on to say that Saturday’s arrest was thanks to “good police work” and had not come from 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.”

Within days of the blast, Somyot said he was offering a 1 million baht reward to help find the perpetrators. The sum quickly tripled after he said two of his friends who wished to remain nameless had chipped in 2 million baht more.

Police made a potential breakthrough Saturday when they arrested a man in the outskirts of Bangkok and found bomb-making material including detonators, ball bearings and a metal pipe at his apartment.

But many questions remain. Police say they are certain the man was part of a network that planned the attack, saying, when asked whether the man is the main bombing suspect, who was seen on security video leaving a backpack at the shrine shortly before the explosion, “He is a man in the network,” Somyot said.

Somyot said the man is in military custody for initial interrogation and will later be turned over to police to be charged.

Police said they found more bomb-making materials Sunday in a raid on another apartment in a nearby neighborhood, and on Monday released images of two more suspects: a photo of a Thai woman identified as 26-year-old Wanna Suansun and a sketch of a foreign man of unknown nationality.

Somyot said he also hoped that turning the reward over to police would help motivate them and show “that higher ranking officers actually give them money.”

It was not immediately clear how the reward money would be distributed to police officers.

AP writer Nattasuda Anusondisai contributed to this report.

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