Bangkok (AsiaNews) – Thai police believe that they now know who drove the suspect in the Erawan Shrine bomb blast on 17 August.
A taxi driver has confirmed picking up the suspected bomber in front of the Charn Issara Tower on Rama IV Road and dropping him off at a spot near Hua Lamphong station, a few kilometres from the Hindu temple, where the blast killed 20 people, mostly tourists, and wounded more than 100.
The source said the taxi driver remembered this passenger utter "Hua Lamphong, Hua Lamphong", with a foreign accent as he got into his cab.
"He looked like a foreign tourist. He didn't say anything during the ride. It's as if he was chatting with someone with text messaging," the taxi driver said.
This witness also told police that the suspect's bag during the cab ride was different from the bag he saw the suspect carry at the Erawan Shrine.
The information provided by the taxi driver matched available evidence, which appears to show that the suspect hailed a tuk-tuk (an auto rickshaw) in front of Hua Lamphong Station and travelled to the Grand Hyatt Erawan Hotel near the Ratchaprasong intersection that same day.
"Now, it's clear the suspect must have exchanged his bag with another person in the Hua Lamphong area," a source said.
Meanwhile, the Thai government has decided to compensate the victims’ families. Under Thai law, the family of each killed victim is entitled to 100,000 baht (US$ 2,800) in compensation. The relatives of dead foreigners are entitled to 300,000 baht compensation from the Tourism and Sports Ministry.
Police however have not yet arrested anyone in connection with the attack, which was aimed at undermining the country's tourism, this according to Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha.
Nevertheless, "The number of tourists in prominent tourist attractions both in Bangkok and other provinces is still high," said yesterday junta spokesman Colonel Winthai Suvaree.
"The Ministry of Tourism and Sports has further reported that the statistics of foreign tourists travelling into Thailand is at the normal level," he added.
According to a source in Bangkok, "the situation has now calmed down among the population. Things still have to be checked but people are back to normal.”
"One good thing was the feeling of solidarity on the day of the explosion," the source added. “Some local hotels and doctors made themselves freely available."