Site of bomb blast in Bangkok reopens to public


BANGKOK (AP) — A central Bangkok shrine where a deadly bomb blast killed 20 people reopened Wednesday to the public as authorities searched for a man seen in a grainy security video who they say was the prime suspect in an attack authorities called the worst in the country’s history.

A stream of people arrived at the Erawan Shrine at one of the capital’s busiest intersections. People knelt in prayer and lite incense at the shrine and laid flowers.

Erawan Shrine, the site of Monday's deadly bombing is surrounded by barricades early Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2015, in Bangkok, Thailand. (AP Photo/Karly Domb Sadof)Erawan Shrine, the site of Monday’s deadly bombing is surrounded by barricades early Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2015, in Bangkok, Thailand. (AP Photo/Karly Domb Sadof)

Police said they had no doubt that the man seen in the video wearing a yellow shirt and carrying a large backpack was responsible for the attack. But authorities gave no indication that they were aware of his whereabouts.

“The yellow shirt guy is not just the suspect. He is the bomber,” police spokesman Lt. Gen. Prawut Thavornsiri told The Associated Press on Tuesday.

This Aug. 17, 2015, image, released by Royal Thai Police spokesman Lt. Gen. Prawut Thavornsiri shows a man wearing a yellow T-shirt near the Erawan Shrine before the explosion occurred in Bangkok.(Royal Thai Police via AP)

Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha called the shrine bombing near a busy intersection that also wounded more than 120 “the worst incident that has ever happened in Thailand,” and he promised to track down those responsible.

“There have been minor bombs or just noise, but this time they aimed for innocent lives,” Prayuth said. “They want to destroy our economy, our tourism.”

Bangkok was rattled again Tuesday when another pipe bomb blew up at the Sathorn Pier, which is used by tourists, although no one was hurt.

Prawut released several photos of the man, with and without the backpack, on social media. The images were apparently taken from closed-circuit video at the shrine before the bomb exploded.

Video posted separately on Thai media appeared to show the same man sitting on a bench at the shrine, taking off the backpack and leaving it behind as he walked away.

Without elaborating, the prime minister said, “Today we have seen the closed-circuit footage, we saw some suspects, but it wasn’t clear. We have to find them first.”

Prayuth said the government will expedite “all investigative efforts to find the perpetrators and bring them to justice.”

The bomb, which police say was made from a pipe and weighed 3 kilograms (more than 6 pounds), went off about 7 p.m. in an upscale area filled with tourists, office workers and shoppers. No one has claimed responsibility.

Prawut said Tuesday’s blast at the Sathorn Pier frequented by tourist boats also was caused by a pipe bomb and could be related to the shrine attack.

People run from an explosion at a ferry pier in Bangkok, Thailand. (Photo via AP)

Police said the bomb was thrown from the Taksin Bridge and fell into the Chao Phraya River, where it exploded. Security video showed a sudden blast of water over a walkway at the pier as bystanders ran for safety.

The Erawan Shrine is dedicated to the Hindu god Brahma, but is extremely popular among Thailand’s Buddhists as well as Chinese tourists. Although Thailand is predominantly Buddhist, it has enormous Hindu influence on its religious practices and language.

Thai authorities identified five victims as Thai and four as Chinese — two of them from Hong Kong — along with two Malaysians and one Singaporean, and said the nationalities of the other eight victims remained unknown.

The British Foreign Office said one victim was a British citizen named Vivian Chan who lived in Hong Kong. It was not immediately clear whether she was one of the two Hong Kong victims identified by Thai officials. Officials at London’s BPP University said she had studied there.

The suspect seen in the video wearing a yellow shirt raised initial questions about whether the violence was politically motivated, since one group of previous protesters was known to wear that color of clothing. But officials have not linked the attack to Thai politics.

At least 20 people were confirmed dead and 126 injured, according to the Erawan Emergency Center.

Bangkok has been relatively peaceful since the military coup after several months of sometimes violent protests against the previous government.

The U.S. Embassy in Bangkok advised U.S. citizens to avoid the shrine’s area. The Hong Kong government raised its travel alert for Bangkok to “red,” urging its citizens to avoid nonessential trips to Thailand.

Thai people light candles near the Erawan Shrine at Rajprasong intersection the day after the explosion. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)

New Way Travel, a Bangkok-based agency that caters to Hong Kong tourists, said all its tour groups scheduled to arrive in coming days had canceled.

Tourists reacted with concern.

“We didn’t think anything like this could happen in Bangkok,” said Holger Siegle of Germany, who said he and his newlywed wife had chosen Thailand because it seemed safe. “Our honeymoon and our vacation will go on, but with a very unsafe feeling.”

Associated Press journalists Jocelyn Gecker, Grant Peck, Jerry Harmer, Michael Rubin and Penny Yi Wang contributed to this report.

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(AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)(AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)