Moments after word began to spread yesterday of a new arrest in the Erawan Shrine bombing, an image said to be of the man’s passport began circulating, only to be quickly disavowed by authorities.
The quick denial matched the pattern of tight-lipped mouthpieces sticking to the script in the face of information released from porous back channels, but was unsurprising as the passport provided the first direct link between the bombing, Turkish operatives and an ethnic group in China’s far west.
Mounting evidence, including a fourth arrest warrant issued for a Turkish national this afternoon, supports these associations that, if openly established, could provide new challenges to Thailand’s military government.
Whether the passport is authentic and came from the suspect, who investigators suspect is that most-wanted man seen leaving the shrine three minutes before 20 people died in a blast there, has yet to be confirmed since his arrest yesterday.
The document, which was received by Khaosod English and other media outlets, identifies its holder as 26-year-old Yusufu Mieraili from Xinjiang, China. The passport photograph appears to match a new photo just released this afternoon of the man arrested Tuesday.
Police spokesman Lt. Gen. Prawuth Thawornsiri, the public face of the investigation, rejected it outright instead of a customary refusal to confirm it.
“It’s just a photo that you shared on social media,” he said last night. “We don’t have that.”
This morning, junta spokesman Maj. Gen. Weerachon Sukhondhapatipak was more circumspect, acknowledging there was a passport without confirming nor denying its authenticity.
“We still have to inspect passport, whether it’s genuine or fake,” he said. “Right now evidence has to follow procedure. We have to see if the passport is fake. We cannot conclude anything yet.”
Unlike the obvious forgeries of Turkish passports recovered Saturday in a Bangkok raid, the passport photo appears much more convincing, with security features including holographic elements.
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