Trial resumes for two Chinese suspects accused of 2015 Bangkok bombing
A Thai court on Tuesday resumed the long-delayed trial of two members of China’s Uyghur Muslim minority accused of carrying out a 2015 bombing at a Bangkok site that killed 20 people.
Another 120 people were injured in the Aug. 17, 2015, attack at the Erawan shrine, which is popular with Chinese and other tourists.
Thai authorities have said the attack was revenge by a people-trafficking ring whose activities had been disrupted by a crackdown. Thailand cracked down on human traffickers in early 2015 after abandoned camps of Rohingya fleeing persecution in Myanmar and economic migrants from Bangladesh were found in jungles along the Thai-Malaysian border. Officials have released few details about what the link might be to the attack, but many Uyghurs are trying to escape persecution and strict control in China with the help of professional smugglers.
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However, some analysts suspect that the attack was the work of Uighur separatists angry that Thailand in July of that year forcibly repatriated scores of Uighurs to China. The popularity of the shrine among Chinese tourists seemed to support the theory that the attack had a political element.
The defendants, Mieraili Yusufu and Bilal Mohammad, pleaded not guilty when the trial began in 2016 and said they suffered ill-treatment and torture in prison after their arrests. Police said they believe Yusufu detonated the bomb minutes after Mohammad left a backpack containing the device at the shrine.
The last session of his trial, which was repeatedly delayed by difficulties in finding suitable translators, was in 2019, said Chuchart Kanpai, Mohammad’s lawyer. The case was then transferred from a military court that previously had jurisdiction to the Southern Criminal Court in Bangkok, following a return to elected civilian government following a military coup. But the court proceedings were later suspended during the COVID-19 pandemic.
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“I think it will be another two years before we see any results. This year the case will not make much progress. We can only take two or three witnesses a day and we still have two to three hundred witnesses left on the plaintiff’s side.” ” he said.
The defendants are believed to be the only two suspects in custody of the 17 people authorities said were responsible for the attack. Some of the other suspects are Turks, with whom the Uighurs share ethnic ties.
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Police said the case against the two defendants is supported by security video, witnesses, DNA matching and physical evidence, in addition to the suspects’ alleged confessions.