Thai police examine Turkish role in Bangkok blast

Thai office workers light candles for victims killed in a bomb blast outside a religious shrine in Bangkok on August 18—–

BANGKOK: Police in Thailand have launched a probe into whether Turkish nationals were involved in a recent blast in the capital Bangkok.

Officials said on Thursday that they were checking the arrivals of Turkish nationals in Thailand in the days leading to August 17, when the blast killed 20 people in Bangkok’s Hindu Erawan Shrine.

Turkey was infuriated last month after Thailand deported more than 100 Turkic-speaking Uighurs to China, with people in Istanbul staging a demonstration in front of the Thai consulate.

Turks say they share many cultural and religious characteristics with the Uighurs who are mostly based in far west China and complain about discrimination by the Chinese government.

According to the Thai media, an investigation has been launched into the arrival of 15 to 20 Turkish people in Thailand over the two weeks before the blast.

“There are probably more Turkish [people] coming into Thailand than that. We investigated groups which may have come into the country,” Prawut Thavornsiri, the spokesman for Thai national police, said.

Observers say the attack on the shrine may have been in retaliation for Thailand’s decision on July 9 to deport Uighurs to China. They say a famous Turkish gang known as the Grey Wolves could be the prime suspect in the case.

Turkish authorities said they were aware of the probe on their nationals in Thailand, adding, however, that Bangkok has submitted no official request to Ankara for receiving relevant information for the investigation.

The case of Uighurs has also sparked a diplomatic row between Turkey and China, with officials in Ankara accusing Beijing of being too harsh with the Muslim community. China defends its crackdown on the community, saying its members have intensified their attacks on civilians and security forces over the past years. 

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