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Thailand Remembers Shrine Blast Victims With Ceremony

  • VOA News

Multi-denominational religious leaders pray at a religious ceremony for bombing victims at a plaza across from the Erawan Shrine at Rajprasong intersection, the scene of Monday's bombing, in Bangkok, Thailand, Aug. 21, 2015.

Multi-denominational religious leaders pray at a religious ceremony for bombing victims at a plaza across from the Erawan Shrine at Rajprasong intersection, the scene of Monday's bombing, in Bangkok, Thailand, Aug. 21, 2015.

Ceremonies were held Friday at the Bangkok shrine hit by this week's deadly bombing, as Thai officials continued to make confusing statements about the search for attackers.

High-ranking Thai officials and religious figures attended the multifaith ceremony to remember the 22 people killed in the Monday bombing at the Erawan shrine, the country's worst attack in recent memory.

Authorities have stepped up security patrols at tourist sites and other areas across the capital city, though investigators appear to have made few solid leads into who conducted the attack or why.

Officials on Thursday stressed the bombing was not likely linked to international terrorism, even while issuing an arrest warrant and releasing a sketch of the primary suspect, whom they have said is foreign.

Investigators "have determined this is not a terrorist act," said National Police chief Somyot Poompanmoung on Friday. "But the incident aims to discredit the government, destroy confidence and scare tourists."

Military clamps down on speculation

Even with the confusion, Thailand's ruling military leaders are cracking down on those speculating about who is responsible for the attack. A junta spokesman said in a television broadcast Friday that all those spreading false information on social media will face punishment.

Somyot also played down earlier comments that authorities were searching for at least 10 suspects who planned the attacks. "I did not say that we have 10 suspects. But initially, in theory, for people who are experts in this kind of bomb attack, we believe there should be many people involved," he explained.

The investigation has centered on a slender, apparently young man seen in security camera footage casually walking away from the scene after leaving a backpack near the shrine shortly before the explosion.

The police sketch depicts a light-skinned man with shaggy hair, round glasses and stubble. Authorities have not released a name or nationality for the man, but say they are confident he played a part in the attack.

Two other people seen in the CCTV footage were initially being viewed as suspects, but officials say they have since been cleared of any involvement.

Officials have suggested various theories, including elements behind Thailand's divisive political factions, Uighurs upset at Thailand's decision to deport more than 100 Uighurs back to China last month, or militants from the country's southern insurgency.

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